Where is Best For Jack Grealish's Development?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United
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Jack Grealish's almighty rise

Jack Grealish has been knocking on the door of England’s senior team for a number of years now. After breaking through at his boyhood club Aston Villa, the playmaker has been constantly talked about, with the label of the 'next big thing' constantly attached to him. 

There were stages where it all looked to be going wrong for the talented young player, filling the papers with his off-field troubles, as opposed to his actions on the pitch. At the same time, Grealish was stuck battling it out in the Championship, whilst fellow young English midfielders were making a name for themselves above.

However, after being made captain of his beloved Villa and leading them to promoting, the 24-year-old is finally being talked about as one of the brightest talents in the English game.

Seven goals and six assists in the Premier League this season are great numbers for a player in a struggling side. Perhaps more impressive than Grealish’s statistics is his constant work rate and ability to influence any Villa attack. Almost all the club’s attacking play comes through him, and his impact on the pitch is one of the brightest parts of an otherwise dull season for Villa.

Grealish’s performances have warranted all of the chat regarding his chance to represent England, and Gareth Southgate may well give him a chance sooner rather than later. Players such as James Maddison and Mason Mount have earned their spots in the England side and if Grealish was at a club that was also competing for Champions League spots, no doubt he'd be right in there with the Three Lions.

If the Villa captain wants his chance to represent the his country, it is unlikely he will be given the opportunity if he is plying his trade in the Championship, which is exactly where he and his boyhood club look like heading.

In terms of his development and international future, it looks like it is time for Grealish to move on, and there a plenty of potential destinations.

Here we will look at the playmaker’s best options and where the odds are for his next move.

Jack Grealish to Manchester United

The club that seems to be the most likely next step for Grealish is Manchester United. The Red Devils' have admired the 24-year-old for a while now, and given Aston Villa’s current status, now might be the time they get their man. The bookmakers seem to think the same, with Paddy Power offering odds of 4/6 for Grealish to be lining up at Old Trafford next season.

The playmaker would certainly fit Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s requirements. The Norwegian is looking to build a bright, young team, and has already added Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James to join Marcus Rashford and co. in this youthful setup.

Grealish would be another piece to the Solskajer's blueprint to get them playing the 'United way'. On top of this, with Paul Pogba’s future constantly in doubt, the Villa midfielder could be seen as a fantastic replacement.

Although the playmaker is often deployed on the left for Villa, he is likely to be used in the middle for United. This would work nicely too. Grealish has shown his defensive capabilities on plenty of occasions this season and playing centrally would give him the chance to utilise United’s pace on the wings.

The one big issue for Grealish regarding a move to the red side of Manchester is that they aren’t very good at the moment. They haven’t properly competed for titles in almost a decade, breaking plenty of unwanted records in the meantime.

This move presents a risk if he wants to grow and develop. Many names have come to Old Trafford in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era and either failed or not quite lived up to expectations. Could Grealish get dragged into United’s misfortune in a way similar to the club’s big signings before him?

Either way, this seems his most likely move and he certainly may get more game time here than most clubs seeking his signature in the 'Big Six'.

Manchester City perhaps not the best choice

The blue side of Manchester offers an attractive option as Grealish’s new home. They are without a doubt one of the best sides in Europe and there is reportedly some interest from the club in signing him. Paddy Power sees them as outsiders, however, offering odds of 14/1 for City to sign the Villa captain, but they are worth keeping an eye on.

The club's playmaker, David Silva, is set to leave the club in the summer once his contract is up. Losing the Spaniard will be a huge blow to City, not just because of his ability, but because of his decade of service at a club where he is regarded as a legend. Losing Silva is a blow, but Grealish is a great option as the man to fill his space. 

City offers a great chance for Grealish to excel, when you consider their stature. The club is among the best in Europe, always fighting for every trophy available and have arguably the best manager in the world in Pep Guardiola. The English playmaker would be sure to learn from Guardiola and playing amongst Europe’s best players would certainly help Grealish to up his game. The issue is, would he actually get game time? This answer gets even darker when you consider the rise of Phil Foden.

City have tremendous squad depth, especially in midfield and attacking areas. Even with the loss of Silva they still have Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan who can fill his spot, that’s without mentioning the young Phil Foden who is sure to come into Guardiola’s plans. Sure, Grealish can fit into the City side, but he would certainly have to compete for his spot like never before

A big-money transfer won’t guarantee a place either, regardless of ability - just look at Riyad Mahrez, who doesn't start every game. The former Premier League winner with Leicester City cost £60m, but can often be found occupying a space on the bench, despite being one of the best around.

A move to City definitely gives Grealish a chance to improve his game and add to his trophy cabinet, but could a lack of game time harm his chances of representing England? Most certainly.

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Spurs could be appealing for Grealish

Tottenham are another club, amongst many, interested in securing Grealish’s signature. Paddy Power views the north London club as the distant second favourite to United, offering odds of 10/1 for a deal to go through. Is perhaps a move to Spurs the wiser option, however?

Moving to Tottenham would definitely be great for Grealish’s development. He is arguably a lot better than the rest of the Spurs midfield, and he could even slot into the role on the left-hand side that he occasionally occupies for Villa. The playmaker would likely have the chance to fill any position across the midfield he wanted and still be the best option for Spurs, alongside Dele Alli.

He may not be adding much to his trophy cabinet at Spurs, but Grealish would most likely get the chance to play in Europe and he wouldn’t be harming his England chances either. The national team has given chances to plenty of Tottenham players over the past few years and the Harry Kane-Alli link was, for a while, one of England's most dangerous outputs.

The biggest issue at Spurs for Grealish could be the manager. Jose Mourinho hasn’t exactly got a great track record with young players and whilst Grealish isn’t the youngest, he still has some developing to do.

Mourinho has gained a reputation of preferring to work with finished articles to get the job done within a season, as opposed to using younger players to build for the future. This may, ultimately, be the factor in deciding yes or no.

Staying as Villa's captain

Leaving isn’t Grealish’s only option. The midfielder can still choose to stay at his boyhood club if he pleases, regardless of how they are performing.

On a personal level, it's probably the ideal option for Grealish. He has always loved the club and has finally been given the chance to captain them, which is certainly a lifelong dream for the midfielder. Even if it would be the best for his career thoughts of leaving must surely upset Grealish and it can’t be easy leaving behind the club you love.

The benefits of staying would, of course, be continuing to captain the side, as well as trying to help them progress from relegation fighters to mid-table contenders and beyond. Unfortunately, the negatives most definitely outweigh the positives in this instance. 

Grealish seriously cannot afford to be playing in the Championship again if he is to advance on his potential. He is way too good a player to be slogging it out in England’s second tier and doing so will likely cost him an England call up.

Not only would it potentially cost him an England cap, but also his progression. Grealish isn’t a finished product yet and his growth will only plateau at Villa. With the Euro’s coming next year, it is an ideal time for the midfielder to work his way into the setup - can he really afford to give the likes of James Maddison and Mason Mount a head start by remaining at Villa?

If Villa do remain in the Premier League, then staying at Villa might not be the worst idea, especially on a personal level for Grealish. However, if the playmaker wants to progress it looks more likely that he will be ending his time at Villa Park this summer.

By Jak Richardson

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