The off-the-field problems at Aston Villa have been well publicised since they lost the Championship play-off final to Fulham in May and missed out on the riches of the Premier League.
The Telegraph recently reported that owner Tony Xia has assured the club around £5m to pay the club’s tax bill and stave off the iminent threat of administration, but manager Steve Bruce gave a frank interview with Sky Sports on Tuesday where he admitted that the club still needed to raise £40m to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations before the new season.
Unfortunately for Villa fans, the bulk of this is likely to come from the sale of their prized asset – Jack Grealish.
Now 22 years old, Grealish joined the club as a six-year-old and has been a lifelong Villa fan.
According to The Sun, the hierarchy at Villa Park value the young Englishman at that target figure of £40m and Tottenham have been strongly linked with a summer move, although it is unlikely that Daniel Levy will pay anything close to that and, in my opinion, he is nowhere near ready to be playing at one of the top six clubs.
If we base our argument solely on facts, a comparison with Leicester’s recent £20m signing James Maddison would seem to suggest that Grealish, who is almost a year older than the former Norwich man, would be more suited to a bottom-half Premier League side rather than warming the bench at one of the big boys.
After missing the first three months of the season with kidney problems, Grealish went on to play just 25 times in the League for Villa, whereas Maddison started 42 games and was influential in an otherwise poor Norwich side that finished 14th in the league.
Maddison’s haul of 14 goals and eight assists eclipses Grealish’s totals of just three goals and five assists and shows the more direct impact that the younger of the two tends to have on matches, with Grealish often going missing for large spells.
Perhaps the key for a creative attacking midfielder, Maddison also had the better stats in possession per game last season and made more key passes than Grealish on average.
It comes as no surprise that, due to their current predicament, Villa are trying to get as much for their main man as they can from a Premier League club. What may surprise people is the calibre of the clubs he is being linked with.
Although he clearly has the talent to succeed in the Premier League, rather than a Tottenham or a Liverpool, Grealish would be better off signing for a team such as Wolves or Southampton where he could be a slightly bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond.
He’s been known to get frustrated on the pitch when the game isn’t going his way and hasn’t had the greatest relationship with the media in his private life. However, if one of these clubs could put an arm round him and foster his development then one day in the future may be his time to bring those Gascoigne-esque jinking runs to one of the top six clubs in the league.
For now though, he must take a leaf out of Maddison’s book and choose his next destination wisely.