What do Duncan Edwards, Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro have in common?
The answer is they are all, remarkably, players who Phil Jones has been compared to.
There are many misjudgements made in the footballing world, just read Michael Calvin’s excellent book The Nowhere Men; but the misjudgement about Jones’ potential is staggering.
In 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson himself even went as far as to state that the then 21-year-old could go on to become Manchester United’s ‘best ever player’.
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These comments were made as Ferguson had successfully regained the Premier League title and was on the brink of retirement, so the Scottish legend can be forgiven for his comments as he was surely in a euphoric state of mind where anyone (even Eric Djemba-Djemba) would have looked like a world-beater.
Jones has had his fair share of bad luck with a number of injuries plaguing his career at Old Trafford.
The centre-back has only played 13 games in all competitions for United this season, with just one of these appearances coming in 2016.
His versatility, while initially benefitting him in a squad that had included Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, has also stunted his footballing growth by not allowing him to cement a starting place in one, chosen position.
The 24-year-old has played for both club and country at centre-back, right-back, defensive-midfield and central-midfield, meaning that he has been unable to progress as well, in one position, as fellow Englishman Chris Smalling who has enjoyed a superb season with United.
Injuries and the curse of versatility aside, Jones’ footballing ability to play at the highest level is also a great cause for concern and, in some cases, ridicule.
Awkward on the ball and not particularly dominant in the air, Jones has, on too many occasions, made even simple footballing actions look complex.
A summer of uncertainty is looming for Jones and decisions must be made about his future by both player (and/or agent) and club.
The England international would certainly benefit from leaving Old Trafford to secure regular first-team football having fallen behind Smalling, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Timothy Fosu-Mensah in the centre-back queue.
Whoever is in charge of United come the summer will certainly be in the market for a new centre-back to partner Smalling, meaning that the Lancashire-lad will find himself pushed further down the pecking order come next season.
Premier League clubs further down the league may well be interested in the young England international who still has time to resurrect his career, but Jones will have to decide whether he is happy to trade-in his weekly wage package (with little or no action) at Old Trafford, for less wages but more time on the pitch.
Both Jones and Manchester United are stood at a crossroads together.
The sensible thing for both parties would be to mutually agree to head in different directions.
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