It HAS been just two years since Aston Villa paid £3m to take John McGinn from Hibs but former Scotland manager Alex McLeish expects that anyone wishing to prise the midfielder away from Villa Park now would be shelling out at least 10 times that amount.

McGinn will be front and centre this afternoon as Dean Smith’s side take on West Ham in London. A win would keep them in the top flight for another season while anything else will depend on what happens to those teams round about them. But if the various different scenarios this afternoon might require the use of a calculator, McGinn’s worth is far more straightforward.

“When he first signed for Villa, I received a call from a local journalist to ask me about John and while I did not want him to make a big comparison and label him as the “new” anyone, what I did say was that his style for me was reminiscent of Gareth Barry,” said McLeish. “He has that same physicality, eye for a goal and box-to-box energy that can be so influential.

“When you look at the money that changes hands in England, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Villa say that he would be worth somewhere between £30m and £40m. And what a bargain they must think they got when they signed him. It’s extraordinary.

“John definitely deserves to play in the Premier League. It is a huge game for them this afternoon with so much stake for Villa as a club. I’d love to see them staying up but if they do go down then I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to see another club come in for John. He has more than proved that he is comfortable at that level.

“He is at an age where he still has his prime years ahead of him. And, crucially, he has always remained a very

level-headed boy. These are the players who keep improving. He is motivated to keep getting better and the best way to do that is by playing games and playing them at the highest possible level.”

And while McGinn has endeared himself to Villa with an industry and application, McLeish is wary of seeing only that. While aggression and energy are characteristics that form a key part of the player’s make-up, on their own they are insufficient without the talent to back them up.

“There is always the obvious thing about John’s determination and his desire which is clearly a big part of his make-up,” said McLeish. “It is also such a Scottish trait, too; but ultimately there has to be more to you as a player than just that if you are going to go and perform in the English Premier League.

“I remember John played for Scotland against Portugal when I was in charge and he had his pocket picked a few times in the game. It was a friendly but against quality opposition and since then what you have seen is that he has really worked on developing his core strength and how to be a little bit more streetwise.”

Scotland have been represented in recent high-profile games in the Premier League with Andy Robertson part of the Liverpool team who ended their 30-year wait for the league title. Kieran Tierney will be in action on Saturday afternoon as Arsenal play Chelsea in the FA Cup final while McGinn has impressed since his recovery from ankle surgery at Christmas time.

If that offers encouragement for Steve Clarke, McLeish knows more than anyone about Scotland’s need for someone to score goals at international level.

“It is always great to see Scottish players performing at this level,” said McLeish. “We are seeing Kieran Tierney really hitting form with Arsenal since his injury issues and Andy Robertson flying at Liverpool and John has really endeared himself to Villa. It augurs well for Scotland when you have players competing week in and week out against the very best but you do think that it would be great to have a goalscorer doing it as well.

“You look at Leigh Griffiths and you know he is one who is capable of it. I wouldn’t be too sure what has been going on but you would hope that he can get himself back into contention for the Scotland squad because we don’t have too many players who can go and score goals at international level.

“Steve can make Scotland hard to beat and if you marry it with a player who can plunder a goal then you know you have got a fighting chance.”