Manchester City have earmarked Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish as their prime target, with Pep Guardiola being a ‘huge admirer’ of the player, according to reports from The Independent.
Guardiola – who signed a contract extension at the club last week – wants to overhaul the squad and identifies Grealish as an ideal candidate, although it is not clear whether City are targeting him for the January transfer window or next summer.
City are also interested in Harry Kane and Lionel Messi, but Grealish stands out as their prime target. Guardiola has discussed the qualities of Grealish with Kevin de Bruyne who was full of praise for the Aston Villa skipper during Belgium’s 2-0 win over England.
Does that rule Manchester United out?
The Red Devils were heavily linked with a move for Grealish during the summer, but they were reluctant to meet his £80m price-tag set by Aston Villa.
United set their sights on Jadon Sancho instead, but they failed in their attempt to sign him from Borussia Dortmund over similar transfer fee issues. In fact, Sancho was not the only one they were after.
According to a recent report from Sport, the Red Devils had reportedly agreed a £133m deal for Ansu Fati last summer, but Barcelona refused to sanction the move.
The 25-year-old has been in outstanding form this season, managing four goals and five assists in eight Premier League games so far. One cannot help but wonder why United didn’t spend the fortune in the summer on a proven Premier League attacking midfielder, namely Grealish.
Grealish signed a new five-year deal in September, and the agreement has a clause that he cannot leave Villa Park for less than £100m. That puts United out of the race, although they may change their transfer plans during the summer, depending on where they finish this term.
Grealish ideal fit for City?
Something is not right about City. It’s not just about the results, but their overall performance gives a different feel from what we are used to seeing. They give the impression of a squad that is coming to the end of its cycle.
They are vulnerable with teams now hitting them on the break. Since the departure of David Silva, they are missing an attacking midfielder who plays with swagger and pride, runs directly at defenders, bamboozling them with trickery and creating something out of nothing.
Both Ferran Torres and Phil Foden are fantastic young talents, but City need someone who has got pace, imagination, technique and experience. Grealish has all these qualities, plus his dynamism, and he ticks all the boxes.
Irrespective of where Villa finish this term, Grealish is unlikely to continue playing at Villa Park next season. He deserves to play at an elite club, and both the Manchester clubs can provide him with that platform. As it stands, City are more determined to get him.