Last summer was all about Jack Grealish. Would he stay or would he go?
Ultimately, the creative midfielder would stay at Aston Villa, but it didn’t come without its fair share of speculation as the 23-year-old found himself at the centre of a saga involving Tottenham.
Eventually, Grealish would go onto sign a new contract and then as the 2018/19 campaign played out he became the club’s captain.
It’s been quite the rise for the midfielder in recent years. After bursting onto the scene during Villa’s relegation season, he has now never looked more ready to take on the Premier League.
But what if there was a player who was more important to the club than Grealish? It would take quite something for anyone to outmuscle the individual who has supported Villa since he was a boy.
Yet, in John McGinn, they may well already have that. Grealish is the one who’s grown up around the club but his midfield partner from last season became every bit as important.
He may even have become more vital.
The back story here, is Manchester United’s interest in the player.
Whether you believe a report claiming they’re lining up a move is another matter, but that reports of this nature have even surfaced tells you plenty about the quality of the player and why he could be even more important than the beloved Grealish.
It’s essential to state this is not an attack on one of Villa’s best players. The academy graduate is a fabulous footballer and, after scoring six and assisting seven in the Championship last term, could be set to take the Premier League by storm.
However, as McGinn’s future quite possibly lies in slim doubt, there is a debate to be had over who is more indispensable to the club.
Grealish is someone with leadership qualities in this Villa team, something we witnessed last season, but on the field he is the flashy player. There’s nothing wrong with that because he puts in a terrific shift going forward.
But his Scottish midfield partner has more to his game. You only need to look at the fact he can provide good numbers in the final third, whilst still boasting a tackle rate of 2.1 per game.
In many ways, he is the perfect midfield player. Perhaps only his discipline – as 14 yellow cards last season suggests – is his downfall, but this is a man who is every bit as good in front of the back four as he is going forward.
A wonderful dipping volley that crashed in against Sheffield Wednesday in the early stages of last season demonstrated exactly how game-changing he can be.
Yet, rather remarkably, he went unnoticed in the PFA Championship Team of the Year. Grealish was instead the man picked despite missing a part of the season through injury.
Going forward though, McGinn could yet prove to be more crucial.
In the Premier League, we’ve seen what an all-action midfielder can bring you at a variety of clubs. From those who came up last year, you only need to look at Ruben Neves’ impact at Wolves.
In short, the 24-year-old knows how to get the job done. In many senses he is an understated midfielder.
McGinn’s work rate is nothing short of phenomenal and if Villa want to sustain themselves now they’re back in the big time, his attitude, tenacity and ability at both ends of the pitch will be colossal.
A move to Man United seems incredibly unlikely but it does beg the question of who in the Villa side is more paramount to future success.
Grealish may have scored the winner in the Second City derby earlier this year, but it was McGinn who helped turn the tide.
Considering he didn’t have long on the pitch it was a phenomenal effort.
But that sums the Scotland international up. In the long run, he could be worth more to the club than any potential sum of money they take for him.
Villa are reportedly demanding a monumental £50m if United’s interest is legitimate, but keeping themselves in the top-flight is worth even more.
Grealish has been the centre of attention for a while, but Villa now need to make McGinn the figurehead of their plans.