Jack Grealish was England’s best player in Sunday’s Nations League defeat to Belgium and I couldn’t help but remember that we spurned the chance to sign him two years ago.
Why didn’t Levy just pay up?
Arrogance. Levy thought he could sign Grealish for £15m that summer as Villa were suffering financial difficulties. The Midlands outfit were hit with a £4.2m tax bill by HMRC and were facing a winding-up order.
Former owner and chairman Dr Tony Xia was struggling with cash-flow issues in China and recruited ex-Chelsea executive Trevor Birch to help ease their money worries.
The club had fallen foul of Financial Fair Play and needed promotion to boost their finances. Losing in the playoff final was catastrophic.
Villa were reportedly considering selling their Recon Training Complex as a last resort too. Grealish was their most valuable asset, however, and we could have capitalised if not for Levy.
Our chairman was unwilling to budge when Villa told us to up our offer from £25m and the decision looks really foolish now.
How has Grealish fared since the deal fell through?
Frustratingly fantastic. Grealish scored (6) and created (8) 14 goals from 34 Championship games in 2018/19 and helped Villa earn promotion back to the Premier League.
Billionaire owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris rescued Villa that same season and injected a lot of money into the club after taking over. And after the Midlands outfit managed to stay up in June, their finances are a lot healthier right now.
Grealish scored (8) and created (6) 14 goals from 36 Premier League games in 2019/20 and has scored (4) and created (6) 10 goals from 7 Premier League games this season. He’s now an England international and making headlines for his performance in the Nations League, so we’ve blown it.
I can’t see us returning for Grealish in January, even if reports link us with him, so he’ll have to be the one that got away.