If/when Jack Grealish leaves the club this summer, it will rubber-stamp Aston Villa’s fall from grace, but when a club is stagnant in the Championship they should expect to lose their better players. Any Grealish transfer though will not necessarily be the summer transfer that symbolises Villa’s current financial plight…
The news that West Brom snagged the services of Sam Johnstone, Villa’s No.1 last season, will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of most Villa supporters. Not so much, that he went to a Midland’s rival, but the fact he’s now playing for another Championship side.
The prospect of Sam Johnstone extending his stay at Villa on a more permanent basis boiled down to Villa getting promotion. Failure to do so would probably mean that the former Manchester United keeper would be snapped up by a Premier League club.
Most would accept that as the price of failure. However, if you were told that Johnstone would still be playing in the Championship next season, you’d have thought it would surely have to be for Villa, considering his time at Villa Park already.
There’s no doubt that his season-and-a-half on loan at Villa more than doubled his value, as he was regarded as one of the best keepers in the division.
West Brom are reported to have signed the 25-year-old for £6.5m (the four-year deal could potentially rise to £10m), when there was talk of Villa acquiring his services permanently it had been for a fee around £3m.
The fact Villa can’t beat fellow Championship clubs to the punch to players that they are already well acquainted with is a sad reflection of where the club is now.
Johnstone isn’t the only example.
Ditto striker Lewis Grabban, who after a 20-goal season for Sunderland and Villa on loan, has been signed by Nottingham Forest from his parent club Bournemouth for around £6m.
Grabban finished the season as Villa’s number one striker and while Forest giving the 30-year-old such a long four-year deal is questionable business, in the short-term he will certainly add to the growing threat of Aitor Karanka’s new look Forest team. Throw in Hillal Soudani and the Benficia duo – the £13.2m midfielder, Joao Carvalho and loan signing, winger Diogo Goncalves – and you have a team that will now be aiming for the play-offs.
Whether Villa would have been interested in Grabban and would have outbid Forest, if they had the money, is another question. He remains one of the division’s top strikers though and perhaps was a better option than Jonathan Kodjia, in terms of getting more out of Villa as a team.
Confirmation of Outs
In Steve Bruce’s interview with Sky Sports while on Preseason training in Portugal, the Villa boss confirmed that there will be outgoings this summer and admitted that other clubs will take advantage of Villa being on its financial knees.
Bruce named Jack Grealish by name as the main concern and suggested clubs may wait until deadline day to snatch him on the cheap.
“Inevitably there is going to be player sales. There are going to be people that I do not want to sell – and the obvious one is Jack [Grealish] – but people will know that we have got financial problems and they’ll sit and wait, and wait, till Deadline Day possibly. I hope that doesn’t happen but we’ve got to baton down the hatches and wait for it.”