Jonjo Shelvey was one goal away from equalling the most prolific season of his career when the Premier League was suspended in March.
The Newcastle United midfielder had scored five goals in 17 appearances for Steve Bruce’s side, making him their top scorer and an undeniably crucial player.
Shelvey has been a standout performer for the Magpies after joining from Swansea City in 2016, yet his reputation has never fully recovered from a disappointing spell at Liverpool.
The 28-year-old won the last of his six England caps five years ago and has since declared he “no longer cares” about being recalled to the national team.
Sadly, it’s impossible to look back on Shelvey’s career without getting the sense there’s a great deal of potential he failed to fulfil.
Well, according to his Newcastle teammates Matt Ritchie, the former Charlton starlet could be playing for Barcelona if he had the focus to complement his raw talent.
Speaking on the In The Box podcast, via Goal, the Scotland international said: “For me, I've said to him so many times, ‘If you just got your head down, focused solely on football and forgot about golf and whatever else.’
“It's true, though, isn't it? He's mad. He'll play golf three times a week, and I'm like, ‘Jonj, you can't do that’. He's like, ‘No, no, I feel better, Matty’. I'm like, ‘That's impossible’.
“But what a player. I’ve been at Newcastle now for four years, and I've honestly seen him inside a box [rondo] no more than 10 times. That's how good he is - and we do boxes every day.
“This guy has the natural ability to just see passes, to receive the ball, to move the ball.
“I remember playing against him as a kid. I think he was 14 - we were playing Charlton Under-16s at Portsmouth - and I think he scored a hat-trick. He was unbelievable.
“Obviously, he's got his moves and he's ended up at Newcastle.
"But I say to him very regularly: ‘Jonj, if you had your head screwed on, you could play for Barcelona so easily’.
“He's that good. He's got everything, he's got the short one, and at Newcastle now, he hits longer passes and tougher passes and he's the one we look to to open teams up and create.
“But - and this is no disrespect to us at Newcastle - I feel like if he was playing for a Barcelona or Real Madrid, you could imagine he'd blow teams away with his ability.
“You've got to have everything in the right place, and he likes his golf too much, doesn't he?
“He says to me, ‘I know Matty, but this is what I'm like, this is what I'm like’. Imagine if you wanted to. You could.”
Although Shelvey looks more than comfortable playing for Newcastle, Ritchie probably isn’t the only one who suspects he could be thriving at an even higher level.
The playmaker might be in his peak years, but it would be a minor miracle if his untapped potential suddenly outshone his infamous lack of discipline and earned him another shot at one of Europe’s elite clubs.
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