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The Grealish Papers: Purslow & Co. pull off a seamless exit

The honest and encouraging statement made by Christian Purslow on Thursday exemplifies the club’s ambitions, no matter the obstacle — a welcoming sign for Villa fans.

Aston Villa Staff Celebrate Winning Promotion to the Premier League Photo by Aston Villa/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

As Jack Grealish’s exit from Aston Villa after nineteen years at the club was announced on Thursday, we will be publishing a number of articles from different perspectives as we look at the transfer and its implications on the club moving forward, which we’re playfully calling “The Grealish Papers”.

Before we start, I took on this project because I’ve never been overly protective of Jack Grealish at the club. The story is great, and is one of very few you see in modern football, but it took me until this season to believe that this club was dependent on Grealish. As such, I hope that these articles will come across as more objective than most you’ll see.

The announcement

Christian Purslow’s announcement to the Villa faithful, sent out as confirmation of Jack Grealish’s £100 million move to Manchester City, was something of a masterstroke we’ve not seen previously from former administrations, with excruciating transactions where top players have left Villa Park over the years.

During a thoughtful, calculated, and frankly honest handful of minutes, the Villa CEO concisely explained the fact that Grealish had left the club and that it was done in a manner that allowed Villa to maximize his value to the club while laying the pieces for the future and still keeping the promises made to Grealish.

In short, for those who don’t know, it was unveiled that a formal release clause of £100 million was included in Grealish’s new contract and there was an unwritten agreement that it would be triggered should a bid of that amount be made by a side in the Champions League, and Villa not be there themselves. He then went on to say that Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings were purchased in order to make up for the talent we’re about to lose; reducing the over reliance on one player.

The tone was authoritative, but frank. Reassuring, but understanding the emotional nature of such a transfer. It was Villa who had built up Grealish’s brand to super-stardom and almost single-man-club status, and this was the club’s understanding that the fabric of the club was changing and the plan is to sell us on the fact that we need to go down a path to make it one for the better.

The deal

The deal is actually somewhat of a masterstroke. An English transfer record fee of £100 million for a player that Villa brought up through the ranks from as young as nine shows amazing tenacity from the club in not being short-changed.

Fans will bemoan this as a sale like others before (i.e., Gareth Barry, Fabian Delph, and Christian Benteke), but this is a much better deal for Villa. Even taking inflation into account, this is a simply incredulous haul for a player who has yet to cut his teeth in European competition and couldn’t break into the England side at the Euros ahead of two fellow Manchester City wingers/attackers.

The insistence to replace by committee immediately shows a willingness to remain competitive and use this as a positive force for progressing up the table. Buendia and Bailey are all promising, young players with proven track records and an ever-increasing ceiling in similar positions to Grealish on the field, and Danny Ings guarantees goals at almost one in two games as well. With these additions, you can see Villa progressing without worrying about one of them going down to injury.

What’s more — there’s probably more to come as the money hasn’t even hit the account yet. A megabucks deal for Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse would be a real show of intent in building a strong, young side with European ambitions, potentially beyond that of the Europa League.

So while emotionally, Jack’s departure may hurt — from a business perspective, it could be a masterstroke!