The former England international is talented enough to play for the Catalans but lacks focus and is guilty of playing golf too much

Jonjo Shelvey is talented enough to play for Barcelona and would “blow teams away”, according to Newcastle United team-mate Matt Ritchie.

Shelvey, who won the last of his six England caps in 2015, is a key man at Newcastle, having joined the club from Swansea City in 2016 after struggling to establish himself at Liverpool.

The midfielder had joined Liverpool from Charlton Athletic in 2010 as an 18-year-old.

But winger Ritchie claims Shelvey could be turning out for Barca or Real Madrid if he had the desire to focus on his game.

The ex-Bournemouth man revealed “mad” Shelvey instead plays golf for Northumberland and takes to the course three times a week.

Ritchie told the In The Box podcast : “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, 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 regular: ‘Jonj, if you had your head screwed on, you could play for Barcelona so easily.’

“He’s that good, isn’t he? He is, though. 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.”

Shelvey, who earned the last of his six England caps in 2015, is Newcastle’s top scorer in the Premier League this season with five goals from midfield.

The 28-year-old has been criticised for a lack of discipline in the past and was sent off twice in the 2017-18 campaign, having led the Magpies to promotion from the Championship the previous season.

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