Leicester boss Dean Smith sees similarities between James Maddison and Jack Grealish as the Foxes midfielder looks to emulate the former Aston Villa man’s relegation-fighting heroics.
Smith’s side are just a point from the Premier League safety line ahead of Monday’s crucial visit of Everton, who head into the encounter one point and one place worse off.
They know just a draw will lift them out of the bottom three on goal difference after Nottingham Forest’s late 2-1 defeat at Brentford on Saturday.
Manchester City’s Grealish played a key role in Villa’s escape from relegation under Smith in 2019-20 — they survived after being four points from safety with three games left – and Smith sees the similarities with Maddison.
“I think they are different types of players but similar characters, in all honesty. Both know that they’ve got ability and both want to push themselves to become the best,” he said.
“I think, when you’ve got players that have that personality and character, they push you as coaches and you want to go and help them become better players. James seems to have that as well.
“He’s always looking to see what he can do better. He’s really engaging in the meetings we have and tactical meetings and very vocal as well. I can see that similarity [with Grealish] of wanting to push himself.
“He wants to talk tactics with you, and football. He’s a football nut, a bit like Jack was as well.”
Maddison, linked with Newcastle, has a year left on his contract while eight players — including Youri Tielemans and Jonny Evans — have deals which expire this summer.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding their futures, though, Smith believes the squad remain committed to the survival fight.
“I’m getting that feeling from all the players,” he said. “They’re all in and they’ve committed to the football club, whether their contract is up at the end of the season or not.
“I’ve already said before, that I don’t know how many are up or who isn’t. I can just see a buy-in from what they’re doing in training and what they’re saying in the meetings.
“Contracts are not my department. My remit is to come in and keep the team in the Premier League, so that’s what I’m focused on.”