Aston Villa loanee Ross Barkley could prove to be the signing of the season – and they may sign him permanently in the new year, according to Kevin Phillips.

The former Claret and Blue, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, insisted it would be “massive” if Dean Smith could persuade the 26-year-old to sign for the club permanently next summer.

Barkley joined Villa on a season-long loan deal in September, the attacking midfielder leaving Chelsea in search of first team football ahead of next summer’s European Championships.

His five Premier League appearances this season have yielded two goals and one assist and helped Villa climb to fifth in the table.

With three years remaining on his contract at Stamford Bridge his future beyond this season remains unclear.

When asked by Football Insider if he expected the Claret and Blue to go all out to sign Barkley permanently next summer, Phillips said:

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“I would have taken Ross Barkley all day long.

“He just needed to play football and go somewhere where there is less pressure than Chelsea. Yes, he is now a big fish at Villa but he is a fantastic player.

“To have him and Grealish both on fire in your team, two of the most creative players in the Premier League, is massive.

“Ross Barkley could potentially turn out to be the signing of the season.

“If Villa can persuade him to join them come the end of the season, it would be a massive step in the right direction.” 

In other Aston Villa news, Darren Bent confused by prospect of John Terry quitting for West Brom or Derby County.