Jack Grealish was the one that got away from Tottenham Hotspur this summer. In an offseason that saw Spurs be the first team in the Premier League era to not make a signing in the summer transfer window, Aston Villa’s Grealish ended up being the only serious target in the closing days and hours of the window. It never went through — Aston Villa, via their new owners, moved the goalposts on a reported transfer deal and Grealish ended up staying with the club that brought him up through the ranks.
Now, weeks after the transfer window closed and days after signing a new five year contract at Villa, Grealish has opened up about the transfer and his future in a new exclusive interview with the Telegraph. In that interview, he says that he was virtually certain he was heading to north London and had already said his goodbyes to his Villa teammates before the window closed. And, despite his love and respect for Villa, he was disappointed that the transfer didn’t go through.
“Of course, there’s going to be disappointment there. You’ve just got to look at what Spurs have done this season. They’ve beaten Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford, they’re playing Barcelona in the Champions League next week. I felt that if I’d gone there I could have maybe been in the England squad by the end of the year. I would never have gone there just to make up the numbers.
“I would have been a squad player, obviously, because you have to look at how good their players are. But I genuinely thought that after a month or two of training, I could have really made an impact.”
Spurs had made their intentions clear earlier in the window, and after the club failed to achieve promotion in the Championship playoff, Villa were in serious financial trouble. Even as the new season kicked off, Grealish said he was certain that he was going to be sold, and he was prepared to move on.
“At Hull, I was 95 per cent sure it was going to be my last game. I waved to the fans when I got taken off as I thought I was going. Even on the Thursday morning of the transfer window, I thought I was leaving. Before the new owners [arrived], Villa needed the money so I kind of accepted that me going would save the club. I think the fans would have taken that, too, because we needed the money.
“Of course, it was unsettling, it was all summer. A lot of people saw the interview with the manager in Portugal when he said the club would have to sell me. At that time it could have got done, but for whatever reason it didn’t. [Spurs] weren’t willing to pay what Villa wanted at the time. But the new owners came in and they changed everything.
“It’s not like I was devastated it didn’t happen, though, because I’ve still got to realise how lucky I am to be playing for my boyhood club. I’ve played over 100 games for Villa and I’ve only just turned 23.”
Grealish has since signed a new five year contract, but there are still talks that should Villa not achieve promotion this season he could still move on. He’s clearly a talented player with a huge growth curve, and he hasn’t yet reached his ceiling. However, it’s no longer clear if Spurs are still interested. One of the main appeals in Grealish was that he was potentially available for cheap, with Villa needing to sell their best players to raise funds. That’s no longer the case, and should Grealish go it’s possible that Villa could ask for even more than they were demanding this summer.
Grealish strikes the right balance here in my opinion. He’s honest in saying that he was ready to move to a club where he could hit the next level as a footballer, but equally honest in saying how much he loves and appreciates everything Villa has done for him. I believe him.
I also believe in his assessment that he would be a squad player at Spurs this season. Even so, I still think Grealish could’ve been an important piece in Spurs’ midfield as they try and navigate through several competitions. It still galls me a little that this transfer never went through, but the whole process has turned me into a bit of a Jack Grealish fan. I’ll be watching him closely this season.