At a career crossroads, Jack Grealish must consider his next transfer move carefully if the English midfielder wants to realize his full potential.
Jack Grealish can probably count on still being a Premier League player next season regardless of whether Aston Villa stay up or not.
For much of his formative years, the midfielder polarized opinion. Some believed he was, as many young English players are, overhyped. Now, however, a consensus has been reached on Grealish. He is worth it.
That true worth, according to the media speculation of the past few months, is somewhere between £40 million and £80 million. Proverbial pennies are already being counted across the Premier League as many of the division’s biggest clubs weigh up an offer for Grealish. None are thought to be as interested as Manchester United. They have more pennies than most to spend.
It’s easy to see why Grealish would appeal to the Old Trafford club. The 24-year-old would be a midfield kingpin for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The January addition of Bruno Fernandes has given Man Utd more creativity and spunk through the center of the pitch, but with Paul Pogba expected to leave in the summer there will be a hole to fill.
Grealish is the sort of player United have lacked for years. His natural tendency is to drift out left, but in the way he drives towards goal that makes him so potent. Aston Villa have certainly made good use of Grealish’s energy and urge in bursting into the penalty box, particularly down the left channel.
He is also the sort of character Solskjaer needs in his dressing room. Grealish plays with a swagger. He has a natural self confidence verging on arrogance, but this does nothing to affect his work ethic. With this skill set and mindset, Grealish has earned his place as arguably the best English midfielder of his generation.
Faced with a career crossroads, Grealish must consider his next move carefully. Old Trafford hasn’t exactly been the best place for young players in recent years, but the environment there is changing. Would this be the right time to join Man Utd or would a move to somewhere like Liverpool or Manchester City be less risky?
There is an acceptance at Aston Villa that keeping hold of Grealish beyond this season will likely be beyond them.
“I don’t know. That’s a question we’ll have to answer in the summer,” manager Dean Smith explained in a recent interview. “Obviously, staying in this league is one of the biggest things to help us keep Jack Grealish.
“He wants to play at the highest level and he wants to win trophies. We’re going to work hard. We have to work hard on Sunday to win that trophy. Jack’s future, like the rest of the players, is down to what happens over the next three months. What we can do is assess it then.”
England has struggled to produce a technically able midfield pacemaker in recent times, something that was exposed at the 2018 World Cup when the Three Lions floundered against teams with players capable of controlling possession. Now, though, there is a crop of such players rising to the top.
There’s Phil Foden, the Man City teenager long billed as the English Andres Iniesta. There’s James Maddison, the Leicester City dynamo also believed to be on Man Utd’s radar. But neither are as complete as players as Grealish. Foden and Maddison might be accustomed to a higher level of competition, particularly in the case of the former, but Grealish has carried Aston Villa at times this season.
Villa’s chances of Premier League survival rest on the midfielder and whether or not he is able to pull his team to safety Grealish will be stronger for what he has experienced at such a young age. It will stand him in good stead as moves forward in his career. Grealish must pick a path to take. The signposts are pointing towards him becoming the defining English midfielder of his generation.