Darren Bent believes Jack Grealish may have undone all his hard work to repair his image after the Aston Villa captain was caught up in his latest controversy.
Police have launched an investigation after pictures surfaced online appearing to show the midfielder following a traffic accident, which reportedly involved his Range Rover.
While the truth is still a mystery, there are reports online claiming the Villa skipper spent the night partying at former teammate Ross McCormack’s apartment in Solihull and then crashed his car into a number of cars and iron railings as he left on Sunday morning.
The incident happened less than 24 hours after Grealish posted a video on social media appealing to fans to stay at home during the Government-enforced COVID-19 lockdown – advice he then apparently ignored.
Images surfaced online on Sunday of a damaged white Range Rover, as well as a picture that appeared to show Grealish wearing bizarrely mismatched slippers and a bright blue hoodie at the scene.
This isn’t the first time the 24-year-old has courted controversy; in 2015 he was caught on video inhaling nitrous oxide, and was also once seen passed out in the street on holiday in Tenerife.
In recent seasons he has appeared to have put that all behind him to become a true leader as Villa captain, and has subsequently been linked with a move to Manchester United as well as a call-up to the senior England team.
But Bent has told talkSPORT that if the rumours are true, Grealish may have ruined his chances of doing either.
“This could be damaging on a whole new level,” the former Villa striker said on the Sports Breakfast with Laura Woods.
“He is the Aston Villa captain, a role model, a leader. In Birmingham he is idolised.
“I thought he had turned over a completely new leaf; he was given the armband by Dean Smith and it forced him to grow up and people have been singing his praises.
“He was on the cusp of the England squad, and people have been talking about him moving to some of the highest-profile clubs in this country, but this will do no favours for him whatsoever.
“There’s been talk of an England call-up, but Gareth Southgate is going to look at that and think, ‘can I trust him?’
“I think that was a big issue before and why he wasn’t picked for the squads. Can he trust Jack Grealish? This isn’t going to help his cause one bit.
“Clubs might be put off as well. He’s got all the ability, but can you trust him? If you’re on a pre-season tour and they let the players have a bit of free time, are these issues going to keep coming up?”
Danny Murphy also reacted to the reports on Monday morning, saying ‘trouble seems to follow’ the midfielder.
“I’ve been one of his biggest fans this season, I’ve raved about him, wrote a column about him, because he’s been brilliant on the pitch,” the former Liverpool and Tottenham man told Jim White.
“Part of that is because he has been in a better place in terms of his discipline away from the field.
“But then this… trouble seems to follow him a little bit.
“We have to be a bit careful because we don’t know exactly what’s gone on, but it doesn’t look good for him.
“The bigger thing is not so much if he gets punished for this, it’s more about the perception of possible admirers – possible new employers and Gareth Southgate.
“He’s got to choose between lots of gifted and talented players and as England manager you want disciplined players, so that type of behaviour and that type of publicity knocks Jack down the pecking order.
“The word I would use is, ‘sad’. I’m sad for him that he’s now got to deal with this when everything was going so well for him.”