Jack Grealish has not seen sufficient ambition from Aston Villa to tempt him to stay with the club, according to former captain Stiliyan Petrov.
Relegation from the Premier League looks a near certainty for Villa now, after Watford and West Ham claimed potentially decisive wins on Saturday to pull clear of the bottom three.
It will mean Villa’s return to the top flight has lasted just one campaign, after Grealish spent three seasons in the Championship helping his boyhood club battle their way back to the elite level.
Grealish is widely expected to leave, having been linked with a host of leading clubs including Manchester United, and the 24-year-old may risk his potential going unfulfilled should he drop into the second tier again.
Although Villa were among the big spenders leading into the 2019-20 season, Petrov suggests the 1982 European Cup winners have still not matched Grealish’s needs.
And in turn that leads to the inevitable suspicion he will call time on his Villa career.
Speaking to Stats Perform News, Petrov said: “As a Villa fan I’d love him to stay. Jack likes to compete, he wants to do that at the highest level. He loves the club. He showed that in the Championship, he helped us get promotion, he battled hard in the Premier League.
“If that moment comes [when Grealish leaves], it would be sad to see because he is an exceptional person, not just player. But as a club, have we done enough to keep him?
“I don’t think so and it’s a big problem going forward as a club, because we may get good players through the youth system, but can we do enough to keep them?
“If he goes, I don’t think he can be blamed.”
Former Bulgaria star Petrov, who made over 200 appearances for Villa from 2006 until 2012, says it would be a natural progression for Grealish to step up to an established Premier League club.
“Jack has a growth mindset,” Petrov said. “He likes to improve, he wants to achieve.
“He likes to be in the spotlight, wants to be counted. He wants to compete at the highest level.
“Of course, he will generate interest from the top clubs because he does perform. If you remember, Pep Guardiola said he’s one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.
“That compliment comes from one of the best managers in the world. Those managers don’t waste their words saying this about someone who doesn’t deserve it.
“That’s why Pep came out and said he’s one of the best and his performances this season have attracted attention. It’s completely normal.”