As the Premier League season draws to a close the newspaper back pages, unable to fill their slots with match reports and training ground ‘bust ups’, turn to transfer rumors and speculation to sell themselves. With many of these rumors being poorly sourced, hearsay, or even just made up, let’s look at some of those Aston Villa players linked with moves away to separate the wheat from the chaff.
This looks to be another summer of speculation on Jack Grealish’s future and how he would ‘love’ nothing more than to leave Villa Park for the glitz and glamour of the ‘Big Six’. However, more reliable sources have reported interest, particularly from the likes of Manchester City.
That being said, short of a hidden release clause in his contract, Grealish is almost certainly staying put this summer. The playmaker's stock and potential asking price has only risen since last summer, when no club put in a bid. Grealish’s recent contract extension and wage increase puts Villa firmly in the driving seat for any negotiations. In this COVID environment, few clubs could afford a player likely to go for £100+ plus, and those that can wouldn’t for any player not named Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, or Harry Kane this summer.
If Man City’s interest is genuine then the next question is: Do they need Grealish enough to spend a record transfer fee for him? The answer is an emphatic no. City already have a plethora of creative players; particularly considering Phil Foden’s recent form. If City spend big this summer, it would likely be in other areas like a starting center forward or depth in defensive midfield with 35-year-old Fernandinho out of contract this summer.
Chances of Occurring: As likely as an England penalty shootout victory, 1/10.
Manchester City’s aforementioned lack of depth in defensive midfield this summer could be the catalyst that sends Douglas Luiz back to the Etihad. The Brazilian midfielder joined Villa last season from City for £15 million; however, the Cityzens included a buyback clause in the deal reported to rise to £27.5 million before expiring this summer.
This deal probably depends on Fernandinho’s contract situation this summer. City are reportedly keen to extend the 36-year-old’s contract, which in turn makes it look like this clause will not be activated in the summer.
Without a contract extension, however, City might well consider activating the clause for the young midfielder, and trust in Pep Guardiola’s track record of improving young players. With the option to play as an eight as he does for Brazil, Luiz is versatil; making this move looks like a sensible purchase for City. At the age of 23, time is on Luiz’s side as an understudy to Rodri.
Chances of Occurring: About the same chance that Villa get a penalty decision, 4/10.
After fighting off several big clubs to secure his first professional contract last year, rumors are again circulating that larger clubs want to poach the 17-year-old this summer. TalkSPORT have linked him with a move to Bayern Munich and Juventus, The Guardian to Manchester United and City, and The Athletic to Monaco and the Manchester clubs. With the number of sources reporting, there is clearly not nothing in this rumor. In fact, the latest of these come from Bild, with the German newspaper claiming Borussia Dortmund would look to make a £15M move for the player.
The number of clubs linked indicates this is a case of ‘interest’ that may not materialize. The club fought off several big clubs to keep Chukwuemeka last summer and clearly presented a plan with a path to the first team in the coming years. The 17-year-old has seen his first minutes at senior level this season, and has reportedly made his way into Dean Smith’s plans for next. Additionally, Villa do not have to sell unless their hand is forced by a ludicrous bid, or the player expresses a desire to leave.
With these factors in Villa’s favor, a transfer probably won’t happen this year, although this is definitely a situation Villa have to manage carefully in order to not lose out on a potential future superstar.
Chances of Occurring: Same chance as a Traore no-look cross-field ball working, 3/10.
Unsurprisingly, Villa’s fantastic goalkeeper, Emi Martínez, is on the receiving end of several speculative transfer rumors after a season showing him to be amongst the best in the league. A Football Insider article reported that Manchester United are looking to offload David de Gea for Martínez in order to challenge Dean Henderson.
This rumor is laughable, as Martínez pushed for a move to Villa from Arsenal last summer in order to be a number one. Moving to another big club to be a number two again makes no sense whatsoever, before even considering the unlikely scenario that United find a buyer for de Gea’s massive wages.
Tom Heaton’s switch to his boyhood club (Manchester United) has only just been confirmed by reports as of Tuesday. He is out of contract this summer, can still be offered game time, and a higher wage at United, who will be challenging in four different competitions next season.
Chances of Occurring: As likely as VAR denying a Manchester United penalty, 0/10.
With Liverpool needing a significant re-build this summer, Ollie Watkins has been linked with a move to Anfield by the Birmingham Mail and Liverpool Echo. This rumor seems to be a positive feedback loop from the two outlets after Jürgen Klopp praised the player in a post-match interview. Add in a few ex-professionals and managers ‘backing’ Watkins to make the switch and we’ve got ourselves a game of broken telephone.
While Watkins has the ability and skill set to attract the likes of Liverpool, they would probably have to offer a massive return on Villa’s £30 million investment in order for the club to even consider it. Liverpool have several areas in need of freshening up this summer and the Reds are unlikely to be able afford Watkins without selling a few key players first.
Chances of Occurring: Same chance as Villa starting with two up top, 1/10.