Jack Grealish has spent roughly three-quarters of his life with Aston Villa. Now the club’s captain, his talent was clear from a young age, and since his debut in 2014, he has developed into a household name synonymous with the Villans.
After he spent his first couple of professional years with them playing a minor role, he developed into a star during their three years in the Championship and has shown no signs of slowing down this year with Villa back with the big boys in Premier League.
Unfortunately for both he and the side, however, his high-level play hasn’t translated into success for the club. Aston Villa finds themselves wallowing in 16th place 24 games in, having lost more than half of their games, and with West Ham, Bournemouth and Watford hovering just a couple of points behind, the relegation zone is looming large in the rear-view mirror. Indeed, the odds found here suggest that they’re as likely as anyone with the exception of Norwich City and Bournemouth of making the drop.
Grealish is, by a comfortable margin, Villa’s best player, and the gap between him and the rest of the team has meant that he has inevitably become a major target for some of the bigger clubs in the Premier League. Manchester United is perhaps the side which has shown the most interest, at least publicly, with numerous reports suggesting that the Red Devils have been keeping a keen eye on the performance of Aston Villa’s captain.
Of course, there are plenty of other sides who would love him in their side and will no doubt explore the possibilities, but with Paul Pogba also the subject of seemingly endless trade rumours, Grealish may ultimately be just the piece that Manchester United needs as they attempt to dig their way out of the hole in which they find themselves.
Unsurprisingly, Aston Villa remains desperate to hold onto their captain, and it’s easy to see why. The Lions boast one of the most talented players in the bottom half of the table – and one gradually establishing himself in the top echelon players in the league – and despite that, they can’t shake off the very real possibility of relegation. They are surrounded by the likes of West Ham and Watford, and it was only a recent injury-time winner over the latter of those that got them out of the relegation zone.
With just 14 games to go, they appear set to spend the latter stages of the season fighting to stay at the top level despite Grealish’s brilliant play, and if he were to depart the likelihood of them holding on – even this season, let alone the next – would become significantly slimmer.
There is no denying his talent, and it’s an unfortunate reality for clubs in Villa’s position that the giants of English football will come calling. Having been there for 18 years, Grealish clearly wouldn’t take the prospect of leaving lightly. Aston Villa has been an integral part of his life for the majority of it, and they have helped to develop him into the player he is today. He also presumably understands the impact that him leaving would have on the club – of the probable ticket back to the Championship it would hand them.
The question is, is that loyalty and investment in the club that he has developed over close to two decades enough to ignore the lure of the likes of Manchester United? Certainly, few would begrudge him the chance to develop further in such a setting, and to compete for actual trophies rather than just a chance to keep playing in the Premier League. The questions will continue throughout the transfer window, and if he does ultimately opt to see out the season with Aston Villa they still won’t stop – whether they manage to avoid relegation or not.
Grealish has developed into the quality of player who, for as long as he is playing with a club playing in a lower league or battling it out in the lower reaches of the Premier League, will be forever surrounded by rumours and innuendo surrounding potential moves. Whether or not the 24-year-old ultimately decides to stay is still up in the air, but one thing is for sure; if he leaves, it spells trouble for Aston Villa.