Aston Villa’s talismanic captain is a wanted man, with Pep Guardiola keen to take him to Manchester City – but the Villans’ owners don’t want to let him depart and are set to offer a new contract
Jack Grealish has discovered this summer that the grass isn’t always greener.
Shoved into the sidings by Gareth Southgate the people’s choice never truly had the chance to shine at the Euros.
Raheem Sterling’s form gave England’s boss a convenient excuse why Aston Villa’s skipper was reduced to little more than cameos despite important contributions.
The winner against the Czech Republic was fashioned after just 12 minutes. When the game against Germany was in the balance, Grealish helped tip it in the Three Lions’ favour.
A 37-minute outing against Denmark was not an embarrassment – again, he did enough going forward to make a difference.
But, being hauled out of the action after Harry Kane slammed the winner past Kasper Schmeichel – little more than half-an-hour after he was introduced from the bench – confirmed the growing feeling he was viewed by England’s hierarchy as more of an extra, rather than the star of the show.
And the time he was afforded to make an impact in the final – 21 minutes – was grossly unfair.
Grealish tried to mask his general unhappiness, but the smile that has characterised his career at Villa Park was seen only fleetingly.
And now, as the ‘will he, won’t he?’ debate over a move to Manchester City kicks over with the nation’s focus returning to domestic matters, perhaps he should consider what might his role be under Pep Guardiola?
If the mooted £100million move went ahead – could the 25-year-old expect little more than the same at the Etihad as he experienced with England as the Catalan coach juggles the considerable resources at his disposal?
After all, the club paid £60m to Leicester for Riyad Mahrez – and the Algerian star has only started around half of the fixtures in the Premier League since his move three years ago.
That wouldn’t be to Grealish’s liking.
Here is a man who was born to play sport. During his childhood, whether it was Gaelic football or association football, a ball was never too far from him.
He’s been the first pick at Villa for the past four seasons. In fact, he’s pretty much got the run of the place. What Jack wants, he pretty much gets.
Villa boss Dean Smith knows it. He tries not to make it about his skipper but it is. It always has been.
And the Midlands giants are upwardly mobile.
Backed by owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens – whose combined wealth stands at £7.5billion – they are men in a hurry.
Smith himself said that their aim isn’t just Champions League qualification. In time, the duo want to win it.
That takes cash.
But Sawiris – thanks to his shareholding in the New York Knicks and the Rangers in the US – is not averse to paying big bucks for star talent.
The going rate for Grealish, should money talk, would be around £10m per season.
It is considerably more than his current deal – estimated at £35m over five years – but what is the cost of him moving on?
Yes, he has the chance to win trophies – but his chances of playing would be hit under Guardiola. Few are an automatic choice.
Villa have the ability to take cash out of the equation and maintain their upwards push with a happy and contented man at the top of his game.
His experience this summer under Southgate may not have ultimately been a satisfying one – but in terms of keeping him at Villa Park, it could be invaluable.
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