The Jack Grealish Transfer Rumour Situation
Despite the fact that it is clear that Aston Villa do not want to sell Jack Grealish and recently gave him an improved bumper contract, it hasn’t stopped the relentless clickbait fugazi surrounding the player.
Aston Villa fans have already had to endure over a year-long barrage of “Grealish to Manchester United” stories. MOMS wrote an article in February last year to say they were a load of nonsense, now it’s time to tackle the rumours linking the Villa captain to the other side of Manchester.
Most of the time in such transfer stories, context is often forgotten. In terms of the United rumours, writers seemed blindsided to the fact that the world was in the middle of a pandemic. Club’s suddenly had huge revenue streams cut, while players, like any human beings, would be reluctant to rush into moving to a new city during lockdown and potentially leave family members behind.
According to the Daily Mail, Manchester United lost income to the tune of £116 million because of Covid-19, due to a Premier League TV revenue rebate, and a drop in matchday and commercial revenues. Their failure in recent years to go deep in the Champions League hadn’t helped their financial situation either.
Their operating revenue was down 18.5%, contributing to a £23.23 million loss on their balance sheet for 2020.
Executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, described the club’s situation as a “once-in-a-century level crisis”.
So, do United really seem to be in the position where they’d gamble £100m on a player either last summer or this coming summer?
Now, let’s come to the next Trojan Horse that helps use Grealish’s name to keep the clickbait farm on him going – Manchester City.
First off, good players have admirers in football. Grealish is a very good player with even further potential, so will naturally get the praise of Pep Guardiola and other Premier League managers in pre-match press conferences. They’re hardly going to say he’s rubbish.
The Citeh Outlook
So if United aren’t in the best financial position at the moment, what would City’s possible outlook be?
Obviously, money’s not a problem, but that doesn’t mean they are rash with it.
As Dean Smith highlighted in an interview about Ollie Watkins’ transfer, Villa had done their due diligence on the striker’s appearance record for Brentford. Watkins had missed just six games in the last three seasons in the Championship (and five of them came in one season), giving him an impressive 96% appearance rate across the three seasons.
Any club looking at Grealish would undertake the same analysis.
Starting off with the seasons when Grealish really came to prominence and became a regular in the Villa team, namely Villa’s three Championship seasons, his appearance record would make any interested club at least pause to give it more thought.
Jack Grealish’s appearances in the Championship
2016-17 – 31 appearances (67%)
2017-18 – 27 appearances (59%)
2018-19 – 31 appearances (67%)
Grealish’s combined percentage of 64% over three seasons is alarmingly over 30% lower than Ollie Watkin’s figure.
Last season though, Grealish managed to be almost ever present in Villa’s first season back in the Premier League. He played 36 of 38 games, when the supposed one-man team just escaped relegation. But the concern creeps back, as his latest shin problem is playing out ala its last occurrence in Villa’s final Championship season.
So far this season, Grealish has missed seven games for Villa due to his latest injury. This current 76% appearance rate could drop to his Championship levels, if he misses the next couple or so games. With Smith still coy on the injury, Villa’s Head Coach did admit after the Fulham game his captain’s shin injury may require another scan.
A straight-up injury normally has a relatively fixed timescale in terms of a player being sidelined, but Grealish’s shin issue currently seems to be an on-going concern.
Will it need constant monitoring throughout his career? Hopefully not.
While not a deal breaker for a club like Manchester City, having been burnt before by Villa with the injury-prone Fabian Delph (I’ve only thrown this line in to try and create a silver lining for that debacle of a transfer), they’d have an element of caution in terms of Grealish’s situation at the moment, certainly in terms of parting with the best part of £100m for the player.
Such is the gulf in class at the moment, between City and the rest of the Premier League, they’re not exactly in a rush to strengthen. Their priority in terms of any major money signing would be a new striker to replace Sergio Aguero.
It would make sense from Guardiola’s viewpoint to monitor how Grealish performs next season and if Villa fail to get into Europe, then use the Champions League as leverage and move in.
One narrative that was spun in a recent Daily Telegraph article mentioning the Grealish link to Manchester City, was that Villa must qualify for Europe this season for Grealish to stay.
Not true. Again, just apply some seemingly forgotten context.
When Grealish was interviewed a few weeks back, he indicated that his initial expectations for this season was to finish around 8th to 10th. If that was his expectations, then why sign a new contract, knowing there would be no European football the following season?
Let’s be pragmatic about the remote possibility of playing European football next season, it’s perhaps fool’s gold for this current moment in time for Villa.
If it was still the UEFA Cup with two-leg knock out ties, then it would be a no-brainer to want to qualify. But the draining and largely pointless Europa League format in a continent struggling to contain Covid is a different matter.
Skipping qualification for a season, so Villa can fully focus on improving and really pushing on in the league next season, is not a bad thing. It could bring larger rewards and Grealish is very much invested in the bigger picture of the club.
It’s the same vision that saw Emilio Martínez leave Arsenal to become Villa’s number one.
“Villa are on the rise, it is clear from the numbers,” said Martinez, in a recent interview with an outlet his native Argentina. “We are doing important things and next year, knowing each other more, we will be fighting higher. Jack wants to be a part of it. He wants to be part of making Villa grand.”
Of course, if Villa don’t continue to progress next season, then we might be having a different conversation towards the end of it.
Grealish’s Big Picture
For Grealish, the next step in his career is getting in the England squad for the Euros and leaving his mark on the tournament.
For the player himself, the main worry about his injury is it may be compromising that dream.
If Grealish doesn’t make the Euros squad, it won’t necessarily be down to some Villa fan’s favourite pantomime villain, Gareth Southgate. A couple of months out injured before a major tournament isn’t ideal. There are plenty of talented England players that have been playing and may seem less of a risk for the cautious England boss.
It’s essential for Grealish to get back and perform for Villa, as getting into the England Euros squad will certainly offer a chance for his career to really kick-on.
If Grealish does get to shine in the Euros, Villa supporters still don’t necessarily need to worry. After all, when David Platt burst on the England scene and became a world beater in the 1990 World Cup finals, he stayed with Villa another season.
That season, Villa finished 17th and understandably it was a swift ‘ciao ciao’ from Platt as he headed to Bari. The momentum that Villa initially built under Graham Taylor, had fizzled out on his departure to take the England job. For Grealish, Villa are still on an upward curve though.
In terms of Grealish and his future at the club, Villa will certainly need to improve again next season and deliver on their projected ambition to keep him. But first things first, let’s hope he gets fit and well, ASAP.
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