John Carew believes James Milner's development into a central midfielder has enabled Aston Villa to cope with the loss of former skipper Gareth Barry.
Barry opted to make a £12 million summer switch to Manchester City, who entertain Villa in a game crucial to both side's Champions League hopes on Saturday.
The England midfielder could have left a big gap for Villa to fill but Milner's emergence has ensured Martin O'Neill's side have enjoyed a successful season.
Carew said: "We've managed to deal without Gareth - and James has done very well with his performance this season. I won't compare him to other players but there's been some outstanding performances from him."
"I think he filled the gap after Gareth, maybe even more. We haven't really noticed (Gareth's departure) to be fair and the team has got stronger.
"James had a lot of weight on his shoulders and he's not just fulfilled the expectations he's done much better than those expectations.
"He can play for any team in the world with the way that he's playing."
Carew can see similarities between Barry and Milner, who was switched from a wide role into the centre after discussions with O'Neill in the summer.
He said: "They are very similar in their knowledge of the game and their understanding of the game - the passing, seeing situations a bit quicker than the rest.
"James is never stressed and Gareth was never stressed. You can see how cool James was with the penalty against Birmingham. He's got all the qualities to be a big player."
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