'I really enjoyed working with him': Dean Smith lauds 'excellent' ace who'd cost Aston Villa a reported £40m

Dean Smith has been waxing lyrical about Ross Barkley ahead of the end of the England international’s loan spell with the Midland outfit.

The 27-year-old joined the Villains during last summer’s transfer window on a season-long loan deal, however, Villa are playing his parent club, Chelsea, in the final game of the season, virtually ending his time with the side.

He enjoyed a fairly productive start to his spell with the club, scoring twice and assisting once in his first five Premier League games. However, injury problems halted his progress and thus the midfielder’s good form ground to a stop.

Reports from Eurosport back in February claimed that the Blues were more open to letting the ace leave Stamford Bridge in the summer. Frank Lampard’s exit as manager of the club is thought to have further reduced his chances of breaking into the first-team under Thomas Tuchel.

90min are going one step further and claiming that it will take a fee of £40m to see the west London outfit part with the former Everton man.

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When talking about Barkley’s season with the club, Smith said: “Unfortunately, he had an injury and that halted his momentum, because he was excellent. I can’t fault his ability or his attitude and I’ve really enjoyed working with him.”

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Barkley’s initial start to life in Birmingham gave a little bit of hope that Smith had added a bit of real quality around Jack Grealish to help take the weight of pressure off his shoulders.

However, fitness issues have slowed down his progress rather than a drop in form and signing him would be a great move from the team this summer.

His link-up play with every single one of the attack has been quite brilliant and his reported relationship with Grealish could well persuade the club captain to remain with the side beyond this summer.

Barkley’s best performance came in the 3-0 thumping away to Arsenal, where the 27-year-old was in superb form. He completed a game-high six key passes as he pulled the Gunners back-four all over the Emirates Stadium pitch.

Completing the signing of Barkley would be a smart transfer decision from the Villains after his impact on the side. His quality in the final third was on show in flashes and if Smith can keep him fit, he’d be a big asset.

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