Jack Grealish Five-Year Deal
Regular readers and listeners of My Old Man Said would perhaps be less surprised about the news that Jack Grealish had signed a new five-year contract, than the mainstream media and social media seemed to be.
As long as Aston Villa remained in the Premier League for the 2020/21 season, as MOMS wrote back in February and as we’ve maintained on the podcast, the most likely outcome was Villa would keep their captain.
The ‘Grealish to Manchester United’ narrative, as MOMS suggested back then, was akin to Orwell’s perpetual war, as media houses cashed in on United fan hype and Villa fan paranoia. With the Manchester club boasting one of the biggest footballing fanbases in the world, the motivation of the constant clickbait stories was obvious.
Many Villans got swept along, with lazy high profile pundits on the TV and radio, adding fuel to the fire. A fire that Grealish’s agent certainly didn’t mind burning, as a by-product of it was always going to be the potential to leverage a new contract for his client before the 2020/21 season kicked off.
Was Manchester United’s supposed interest even real?
We’ve all seen the constant fear triggering ‘Buying house in the area’, ‘On the verge of signing’ and ‘deal is already done’ type of headlines. One outlet, even tried to paint Grealish as a boyhood Manchester United fan. There certainly was a lot of nonsense around.
Yet, the Manchester Evening News greeting the news of Grealish’s new Villa contract, wrote:
‘Manchester United were never close to making a move for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish’ and that ‘there were no discussions with Villa during the summer over a deal for the 25-year-old.’
Beyond Grealish being on a United short-list of players to keep tabs on, when you consider Villa’s very public asking price, the lack of firm United interest ultimately was surely closer to the truth of the matter, than the past months of headlines.
As MOMS maintained, with uncertain financial times due to Covid-19, United were never going to splash £80m on the Villa captain. There was better value to be had in the European market for the likes of Bruno Fernandes and more recently Donny van de Beek. Both are around Grealish’s age, yet proven in the Champions League and their combined initial fees were around the Villa man’s asking price.
Likewise, if United were going to drop silly money on an England international, it was always going to be Borussia Dortmund’s winger Jadon Sancho – who has five years on Grealish, but is already playing at the very elite level.
Of the three other English clubs that could probably afford Grealish at this moment, Chelsea had spent elsewhere, while Liverpool and Manchester City didn’t really need him.
Due to Premier League TV rights money, we are in an age where any Premier League club can pay a player handsomely (see Maddison at Leicester City), so a player doesn’t need to play for the top four team in order to be financially satisfied.
“It was a deal that I got offered that I couldn’t really turn down, if I’m honest,” admitted Grealish, after signing his new five-year Villa deal.
In terms of immediate goals for Grealish, apart from a bumper contract, his goal of being a regular England international is more than achievable at Villa Park. Especially, when you consider his talisman position at Villa.
It’s very rare to see a player enjoy such an integral role to his club as Grealish currently does. On the pitch, he’s the heartbeat, while off it, he’s the face of the Villa brand nationally and internationally.
Just listen to the Villa CEO Christian Purslow stress Jack’s importance to the club.
“Jack is an emblem of our Owner’s vision for Aston Villa. He joined our Club as a local boy aged six and has developed into one of the country’s finest players finally becoming a full England international last week,” said Purslow.
“We are determined to build a top team around him and are delighted that he is extending his contract and committing himself to the club he loves.”
Name another player in the Premier League that has his boyhood club being built around him?
This unique situation was perhaps undervalued by media and fans alike, when it came to what would happen next.
Still, Grealish had said a few days before signing his contract, he was “50-50” to whether he was staying. Did he just say that for the interview cameras and to justify his new deal?
Grealish certainly seemed invested in the upcoming season with Villa, according to Dean Smith’s comments in his own recent interview (in The Guardian):
“One of the first things he did [after the England trip] was come to me and say: ‘Gaffer, can we have a four-week schedule so we can plan. I saw some of the other lads had that and it would be great for us.’ He’s never asked me for that before, we only give two weeks. It’s great that he wants to keep getting better.”
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The reality is Grealish wasn’t going anywhere unless a bid came in. As MOMS suggested last month, a similiar situation ultimately played out with James Maddison, who didn’t court the interest he perhaps expected. The Leicester City midfielder ended up signing a new improved deal at the Foxes.
It always seemed likely that Grealish, who holidayed with Maddison in the summer, would follow a similar path. Smith had confirmed there had been no firm offers for him. The only scenario to him leaving would have been a late transfer window deadline swoop, with Grealish trying to force his way out, but in the current Covid-19 football economy, would that have been a reality?
It’s often forgotten that while their top players have moved on in the past, Villa don’t let them go easily. Villa got an extra season out of Christian Benteke, after the local press had been insistent he was gone. Gareth Barry played an extra season too, after a mooted move to Liverpool didn’t happen. Even Fabian Delph, whose ‘new contract’ situation was ultimately a PR own goal by the club, almost stayed longer than expected.
Villa’s owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, who happened to have bigger resources than those who have come before them, weren’t prepared to roll over and let their best asset go. Through his experience of having Giannis Antetokounmpo at the Milwaukee Bucks, Edens especially knows a thing or two about the sporting and commercial benefits of having a super star type figure at the club.
The new contract was reassurance to Grealish and Villa supporters alike, that NSWE have real plans for the club.
You could tell by the spring in the Villa captain’s step in the cup game against Burton, that followed his contract announcement, that Grealish was happy with what Swawiris had outlined to him in their FaceTime session over the weekend. No doubt it would have included the club’s plans for the remainder of the transfer window and the owner’s mid and long-term ambitions.
Seeing Grealish dart through Burton’s yellow shirts on Tuesday evening, made MOMS think that the owners, Grealish and most supporters want the same thing when it comes to midweek football. Those yellow shirts should be Borussia Dortmund shirts with Villa playing in Europe once again.
After a difficult transition season back in the Premier League and with their captain settled again, the club can finally start to take proper steps in that direction now.
With a re-energised and happy Jack Grealish, they may just have a chance.
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