Jack Grealish: Ambition of Aston Villa convinced me to stay
Jack Grealish claims it was the ambition of Villa’s billionaire owners which convinced him to stay with his boyhood club.
The 25-year-old ended months of speculation over his future by signing a new five-year-contract at Villa, thought to be worth around £125,000-a-week.
Grealish had been heavily linked with Manchester United after a career-best season in the Premier League.
But Villa were always determined to keep their captain and with no suitor willing to match their £80million valuation, talks began over a new deal.
Grealish was won over after discussions with Villa’s head coach Dean Smith, chief executive Christian Purslow and chairman Nassef Sawiris prior to last Saturday’s friendly win over United.
Sawiris and co-owner Wes Edens have invested heavily since saving the club from the brink of administration two years ago.
Grealish said: “I had a chat on Saturday morning with Christian and the manager for about 45 minutes, and then I also spoke to Nassef on FaceTime.
“The way they were speaking was crucial to me signing this deal, their hopes that they’ve got for this club was a massive factor in me signing this new contract.
“Four or five days ago I genuinely didn’t know where I was going to be starting the season, that’s how intense it was.
“After the friendly on Saturday I rang my agent and said ‘listen, I’ve had a long chat with Christian and the manager and Nassef, and I said I think my future lies at Aston Villa’. I believe in the project they want to go forwards with.”
With Sawiris and Edens’ backing, Villa spent more than £130m after winning promotion back to the top flight in May last year.
After surviving on the final day of the season, their spending for the current window is set to surpass £75m with the expected arrivals of Emiliano Martinez and Bertrand Traore.
Villa have already broken their transfer window with the £28m signing of Ollie Watkins from Brentford, while Matty Cash joined from Nottingham Forest in a £16m deal.
The new contract for Grealish, who was already the club’s top earner, has seen his pay jump by £50,000-a-week and will lead to a gradual raising of the wage structure. Talks over new deals for John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Tyrone Mings are likely to take place in the near future.
“It’s just the ambition,” added Grealish. “Last season we finished 17th and we pumped a lot of money into the club last summer. Everyone wanted to finish higher, but that’s not always the case.
“If anything, we were lucky to stay in the league - with four games to go, I don’t think a lot of people thought that was going to happen. I always had faith in the team.
“It’s the drive and ambition going forward that they (the owners) have. They’ve brought in two brilliant players already and I’m sure there are going to be more coming through the door. It’s something that we need.”