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“The first thing they did was to give Jack Grealish a new five-year contract and say we want to build the team around him,” said ex-Villa boss Steve Bruce at the end of last year, reflecting on the owners who had sacked him from his job at Aston Villa.
“How refreshing to every Villa supporter that was,” continued Bruce.
“He is the crown jewel and he never wanted to leave. It would be difficult for anyone to buy him with the size of contract he has got.”
The clue to both Jack Grealish’s commitment to the club and how difficult it would be for a team to sign the Villa captain was there for all to see before 2020 became both the year of Covid-19 and ‘Grealish to United’ clickbait.
Yet, ever since Bruce uttered those words back in November 2019, almost daily, the football media sniffing ad revenue from Manchester United’s vast global fanbase have been churning out Grealish stories and mischief.
As early as February, there were headlines (see below) that Villa’s captain had already agreed terms and was house hunting in the North West area (fast-forward to now and you’d have thought he’d have announced the news, before buggering off on holiday?) Many fans supporters of both teams took the bait and have kept the social media fires burning on the topic ever since.
The last time MOMS actually felt it needed to write about Grealish’s Villa status was earlier in the year about the agenda of Jack Grealish to Manchester United, certainly from a media point of view. It seemed to also escape many people that Villa’s joint owners didn’t acquire their billions from not knowing how to lock their assets down and protect them.
Ambitions of a return to European football don’t equate to selling off your best players.
Look at Wolves, they seem to be doing a good job of keeping their team in tact, and are profiting on and off the pitch due to that.
The main danger to Villa keeping Grealish was if the club got relegated, but that didn’t happened. If it had, losing Grealish would have been the least of Villa’s worries.
With a difficult Premier League transition season over for Villa and at 24-years-old, time is very much on Grealish’s side in terms of achieving his immediate aims with his boyhood club, as they now look to kick-on. The signing of Premier League winning Craig Shakespeare as assistant Head Coach is certainly a step in the right direction, as are the recent senior recruitment acquisitions. These developments will not go unnoticed by Grealish.
The England team is also well within reach playing with Villa, and if the owners are true to their recent words in terms of European ambition, then he can be a pivotal part of getting the club up the league and into Europe.
If Grealish goes through the gears, Villa get in some extra quality and Dean Smith flourishes with his new support staff after his Premier League baptism of fire last season, then the scene is set for Grealish to really make his mark.
Grealish is in a very unique position. What other player is having his boyhood club potentially build around him?
While the football media have maintained the lazy links despite Villa beating the drop, with the Daily Star even trying to frame Grealish as a boyhood United fan and The Sun trying to pick the best United formations to accommodate Grealish, the evidence of what could happen is mapped out with with three other deals in 2020.
Three Pointers to Grealish’s Fate
The fact Harry Maguire was brought for £80m had some Villa fans believing, well, if United paid that, then you could see them paying that again for Grealish and his potential.
However, before Covid was even a factor in football’s economy, a more influential force in terms of United accessing Grealish’s transfer value manifested itself in the form of Bruno Fernandes, when United bought him from Sporting Lisbon for a fraction of what was mooted for Villa’s captain.
The Fernandes Factor
For £47m, United got a 25-year-old player who was already making his mark in European competitions and for the Portuguese national team.
The impact that Fernandes made for United since January has been first rate. Never mind his contribution of eight goals and seven assists in just 14 league games, but he’s proved to be the missing link to get United’s young attacking talent firing as a collective.
He’s a player who fully took on the responsibility of driving United forward as a club, allowing them to dream again.
Fernandes set a new benchmark in which to evaluate Grealish against and with Pogba still in their ranks too, it begs the question – do they really need the Villan? If United were going to spend big, they’d probably be better off addressing their apparent weaknesses in their backline.
Grealish has been good (eight goals and six assists in 36 games), but he didn’t really shown his extra gears consistently for Villa last season, if the true be told, to justify such a big money move.
Despite what the fanboy chorus may preach, Grealish was something of a passenger in the League Cup final for Villa and didn’t lead Villa to survival and claim legend status, as some schoyphantic writers would have you believe.
You could argue that Villa’s most complete league performance last season was their 2-1 injury-time loss to Liverpool at Villa Park, a game that Grealish was injured for.
What really maintained Villa’s Premier League status during the restart period was Villa’s improved defensive organisation with Douglas Luiz pivotal to that, along with some unlikely Trézéguet goals. Of course, Grealish played a big part, but it was a team effort that got Villa over the line.
If for example, Sir Alex Ferguson was still United boss, it’s unlikely that he would buy Grealish at this stage, when you consider he only picked off Dwight Yorke, Ashley Young and Mark Bosnich from Villa, after they’d proven themselves beyond all doubt and consistently across a few Premier League seasons at Villa.
Speaking of the Red Devils, it is more than likely that they will complete the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund this window. A signing that indicates that any move for Grealish this season would be very unlikely indeed.
Sancho is four years younger than Grealish and is proven at the very top level. He’s scored and assisted in domestic cup final wins, battled for titles, scored for England, played Champions League football, so is already successfully operating at the level United want their players to be at.
Grealish is currently catching up due to Villa’s three seasons in the Championship.
So, if United had to choose between the two players at the moment, it’s a no-brainer based on the factors of age and current top level experience.
Also, look at how United are structuring the payment of the Sancho deal, with them mooted to initially pay an initial fee of around £60m, and then pay additional instalments in the form of bonuses potentially rising to circa £100m over the next couple of seasons.
This doesn’t look like a club of bottomless wealth that will front up big again to the tune of £80m for Super Jack.
As MOMS indicated back in February, as Spurs were relying on Villa potentially going into administration a couple of seasons ago to drive the price down on Grealish, United were perhaps banking on Villa getting relegated this season to pick him off and save themselves a few million in the process.
The Maddy Conclusion
It was also in Jack Grealish and his agent’s interest for the United media circus around him to build and sustain itself over recent months. There’s no such thing as bad press, as the saying goes. After all, it builds your profile, which helps when you come a knocking for an improved contract, which was always a potential avenue for his agent to push for in light of United’s supposed interest.
Now, did Grealish do anything above and beyond in the 2019/20 season to warrant an improvement of his already bumper contract? Not really. He’s already on a top Premier League player wage, so you don’t get an increase for helping to keep a team up. Does every player get a rise for doing the bare minimum to survive in a Premier League season?
Only getting 35 points screams wage reductions for every player, if you ask MOMS!
Then, in terms of Grealish, you’ve got the NHS video incident in lockdown too.
Ultimately, Grealish has a contract that is no doubt incentivised already to increase with performance milestones and England call-ups.
Grealish was holidaying this summer with his mate James Maddison (amongst other players), who was also earlier on Manchester United’s radar. Despite Leicester City falling at the last hurdle when they seemed nailed on for a Champions League spot, he stuck with the Foxes and penned a new deal alleged to be £95,000-a-week.
Perhaps because Leicester felt they were in the top four places for so long, that’s where their aspirations lie, so they fronted up the much improved Maddison deal. We’ll see how that’s working out for them, come the end of next season.
Maddison’s new deal was also a clue that United aren’t that desperate for such players now they have Fernandes, and the players themselves aren’t that desperate to leave at the moment, given their age and their position as top dog at their current club.
Based on all of the above, as MOMS has maintained throughout the year, as long as Villa didn’t get relegated you’d be surprised to see their captain leave the club this summer.
After all, how many other players have a giant image of themselves displayed on one of the stadium stands of their boyhood club?