You probably heard that Tottenham Hotspur didn’t sign any players in this transfer window. And with the benefit of hindsight, we can look back and see that the deal for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was at the end of the day the only deal that was really ever a close thing to actually being done.
So when the news broke last night that Villa had rejected Tottenham’s £25m bid — one that had reportedly been mooted with former Villa owner Tony Xia — and Spurs decided not to submit an improved offer, we all wondered — What the heck happened?!
James Rushton is the managing editor at 7500 to Holte, SB Nation’s Aston Villa blog, and he’s been right on top of this story during the entire window. James and I have been talking on Slack and Twitter throughout the whole saga, and he graciously offered to answer some questions for Carty Free about the window, the aborted bid, and what the future might hold for both Grealish and Aston Villa.
There’s been a lot of talk on social media about why Villa seemed to reverse course and rejected Spurs’ bid, after several rounds of negotiation. From the Villa angle, what’s your take on why that happened?
JAMES: The easiest way to explain anything at all is to look at the situation. Villa, it seems, are loaded with cash now. A few weeks ago, they weren’t. Our owner’s assets were tied up and we couldn’t fund the club. It was, to be blunt, a fire-sale situation. Now, we’ve got new owners and it’s not the case anymore that we’re scrambling for cash. We don’t need to sell Jack Grealish for anything less than what we think he’s worth. Simply enough, we can’t move for Tottenham’s valuation or price, because he has to move for Villa’s price. If Tottenham met that, he’d have moved.
What do you expect from Villa now that Grealish isn’t coming to Spurs? Are they promotion candidates again? Would they be without him?
I expect Villa to be competitive with or without Jack Grealish, to be blunt. Our squad is decent, and although it has its glaring weak spots, that’s not exactly a unique situation for the Championship. We probably need a better striker, but Grealish on his own hasn’t fixed Villa’s main issue of consistency. What’s more, we did alright without him last season.
Based on your sourcing, what does Grealish really think about this move blowing up?
While I guess he’s disappointed, I can pretty much guarantee that all reports of him being furious are completely out of whack. Jack loves Aston Villa, in a way that isn’t clear to most. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t ever want to leave, but it does mean that staying at the club is at the very least, a decent consolation.
Look at it this way: while he doesn’t get the move to Spurs, he’ll double his pay-packet at Villa and has the potential to star this season. That’d drive up his price and send him to the stratosphere. Not a bad place to be in, at all, if you think about it. Again, I’d bet that he’s disappointed, but that’s a world away from fury.
With this move off, how do the new owners plan to deal with what looks like a QPR-like Financial Fair Play deficit?
FFP? I really don’t think it’s as bad as first feared, and that’s after conversations with some very smart people. It’s assumed there’s a black hole teetering around the club and the Swiss Ramble reports haven’t done a lot to paint a pretty picture.
However, Villa have cleared some massive wages and loan fees off the books. Alan Hutton has taken a massive pay-cut, Gabby Agbonlahor and John Terry are gone. We’ve sold Jordan Amavi for £9 million, we’ve gained nigh-on £3.5 million on the Adama Traore sale. Jordan Veretout could yet go for a massive fee, earning Villa upwards of £5 to £7 million in sell-ons. Carles Gil and Pierluigi Gollini have left the club for around £5 million in total. These are decent figures, even with the people we have brought in.
The big thing about FFP is working to reduce losses, and Villa have done that. That can’t be said much about QPR and Birmingham City, who spent well-beyond their means and continued to do so, despite making losses. Villa have had a season or two of spending, and now they’ve cut losses. I’m pretty sure Villa will be on thin-ice, but it’s not going to be a horrible situation at all. Villa, as far as I can see, have worked to reduce their spending - and that has to stand in their favour if the EFL want to take action. What’s more, we have new owners - and a lot of the heavy spending was under a previous regime. There’s room to breathe here, even without selling Jack. Still, we’ve got some work to do.
There are reports that Villa are planning to offer Jack a new contract within a few weeks. Will he sign? Could he move in the January window?
Yup. I’m sure a new contract is coming in and if it’s signed, I don’t expect him to leave in January, at all. However, time comes round in that circle - as it always does. We’ll be here in a year, won’t we? Having this conversation again.
I want to thank James for taking the time out of his busy deadline day schedule to chat about Grealish. As difficult as it has been for us watching our only decent transfer possibility collapse, for Villa fans this would be like watching Harry Kane nearly go to Manchester United. He’s one of their own.
7500 to Holte is SB Nation’s Aston Villa blog, and James and his staff do amazing work — it’s one of my favorite blogs on the network. You can follow the blog on Twitter at @7500toHolte and James at @jamorushton