**Disclaimer: as ever, this is just my opinion. It may wildly differ from the other contributors to this site.**
You aren't the most technically gifted footballer I've ever seen. You aren't the best central midfielder I've seen in a Villa shirt. It's quite often a chore to watch you play, you're awkward on the ball. You make stupid and reckless tackles. You've collected about 4 decks worth of red and yellow cards. You dribble down blind alleys. You make appalling decisions in the final third.
Despite these limitations you could comfortably play at a higher level than Villa. I think you and Benteke have probably got your new clubs the wrong way round. You've flashed hot and cold but you've shown enough to suggest you can apply your talent and be useful to any squad. I absolutely don't begrudge you that step up, or taking on a better salary.
But it's not because you left that I'm crushed right now. And I am crushed. I'm not myself. I'm bitter. I can't shake this disgusting cloud hanging over me. This is starting to sound like a My Chemical Romance song. It shouldn't. You're just a footballer. It should be about the bigger picture. With £40 million soon to be in the bank and links to exciting young talent, Villa could end up better off next season. But if you'll bear with me I'll explain why I won't get over this one in a hurry...
It's your character, Fab. I've been properly obsessed with football and Villa since 2006. In all that time you've been my favourite player. Not the best. But my favourite.
You overcame an awful start to your Villa career. You couldn't tackle. You couldn't pass. Numerous injuries set you back and you got a new contract from the club that seemed pretty charitable. But you overcame that because you were determined, because there was fight in you, because you believed in yourself. Sure enough you established yourself in the team. In a difficult time for the team on the pitch you became a key player. Dragged us through games. Your energy and desire kept us fighting. Worse players around you looked at you and thought "we still have a chance here".
You fronted up to the cameras numerous times when we lost, when we were humiliated. The more senior lads couldn't give a toss about offering an explanation or an apology, but you did despite your youth and inexperience. You talked at length about how lucky you were to have been given a chance by Villa, about how they stuck by you. At length about how grateful you were to your Mum for carting you hours to and from training every day on the bus so you could achieve your dream.
From the start of this season it looked certain you were leaving. I mean it's Villa. Since Martin walked out almost nothing positive has happened for us. But you didn't walk out. At the lowest of our low points, you signed a new deal and took on the captaincy. You weren't abandoning the club that had been so good to you, the one you had grown to love. You believed that if we stuck together we could ride this out. You gave us hope that there were better things to come, just over the horizon. With a cheeky wink you literally said that you were proving there was still loyalty in the game. We adored you for that. And we believed you. Because you were a decent and honest guy. You'd shown it for years.
More fool us. It was a pretty huge shock to find out you'd had a pitiful release clause inserted into your contract. Maybe you weren't staying after all. Maybe you weren't going to stick to your word. Maybe you weren't the hero we all hoped. City came calling. It looked done and dusted.
But. No! We were wrong! There's the Fabian we know and love. There's our knight in shining armour. The man we're proud to call captain of Aston Villa. You turned them down. Man City, all their money, all their power, all their potential success. You shunned them. Because you were smart about your football choices and you knew they only wanted you for your nationality. You hadn't truly earned a place in their team. It would be by default.
"...I want to set the record straight. I'm not leaving. I'm staying at the football club and I can't wait for the start of the season and captaining this great football club."
You might have come close, but you did the right thing. Your moral compass did not let you down and you even gave the fans a signal of your intent with that statement. We loved you more than ever. You were the beating heart of Villa, the man who would not let this wilting team die. You were going to see it through.
Or so we thought. 6 days later you completely shredded the façade that you had built over weeks, months, maybe even years. That release clause wasn't a future safeguard against relegation. Oh no. It was tactical. The new contract gave you a cash boost for a few months and was excellent PR. But you knew that your level of talent wasn't quite enough for any top club to risk paying the kind of money Villa would demand on that new lengthy contract. You'd be stuck here. If not a free option you had to be a cheap option to make yourself available. You knew the top clubs were short on the homegrown quota and offered them a juicy bargain - not a world beater, but a solid option that wouldn't let them down. One that would bring the real big fish knocking, not just Spurs, Liverpool or Southampton.
So, with help from the club you pulled the wool over our eyes. Convinced us everything was fine. Stated categorically that we did not have to worry. You were the loyal one. You were different. You were the exception. Then you tore it up. Right in front of our faces, right when our guard was down. Because you also knew that playing the loyalty card would bring City back. Hungrier. With more money. With more promises. They had to really convince you to join. Now you held all the cards. It wasn't just Villa and their fans that were desperate. It was City.
You knew the pain and outrage you would create for anyone connected with Villa. But you did it anyway, revealing that your image to your previously adoring fans meant less to you than a few extra quid and a couple of extra games. You knew the football world would call you a hypocrite. A liar. A snake. You knew the backlash that was coming. But you did it anyway - showing us contrary to popular belief, your honour, integrity, public perception mean less to you than small details in your new contract. That your word and honesty, which we thought was everything to you, is worthless.
The last thing I ever thought you would do would be to let anybody down. But you have, Fab. You've let us all down. I'm looking at a completely different man. A man I'd hate to see back at my club. A man I wouldn't shake hands with. It kills me. But the respect I had for you has gone forever.