Juan Pablo Angel admits that he never quite knew whether Gabby Agbonlahor would turn into the established player he is today despite having ‘all the attributes of a superstar’.
The former Villa striker left the Midlands for the United States in 2007 – the year Agbonlahor became a regular first team player.
He has been pleasantly surprised by his development into a lethal Premier League striker and reckons there is even more to come.
“I do remember him from my time at Villa but he was only a young player who made his debut when I was there,” said Angel. “It was hard to tell whether he would make it.
“He had everything to make him a superstar, most of all the one tool that is extremely important in the modern game, which is his speed.
“He started to become more involved with Martin O’Neill and he has now developed into a more mature player. What I have seen in him this year is very encouraging.
“I’m sure he would have been disappointed with having the season he had last year. Now he has something to prove. He’ll want to be back in the England frame and he’ll want to give himself the chance to be the player he wants to be.”
Agbonlahor has started the season at a blistering pace and has flourished under Alex McLeish. Last year was frustrating for him as Gerard Houllier preferred him out wide.
The Erdington-born star turned 25 on last Friday and is no longer in the ‘youngster with potential’ bracket.
A good campaign this year is the difference between a Euro 2012 place for England or a summer in front of the TV and Angel, who still follows Villa’s progress on a regular basis and manages to watch games on the other side of the Atlantic, knows it’s important for him to impress.
“His speed is always going to give him a good chance to start with,” added the striker who made 175 appearances in claret and blue.
“He has the tools but it’s up to him how much he wants to improve and how willing he is to do the things he has to do to become a world-class player.
“He’s in an environment and a league that will give him all the opportunities. He looks a lot stronger now, for sure.
“I think it was last year when I saw him at the beginning of the year, I noticed he had put on some weight in terms of muscles and strength.
“I guess if he knew that speed wasn’t enough he wanted to become more powerful too.
“He’s giving himself every opportunity and you can tell now that he is more confident using his body because he will not get out-muscled.”