Dean Smith has claimed Aston Villa “never expected” Jack Grealish’s British record £100 million asking price to be met by Manchester City.
The 24-year-old captain left his boyhood side to join the Citizens on a six-year contract earlier this month, with Villa’s chief executive Christian Purlow revealing that Grealish had asked the club to “exercise his release clause”.
“We set the value at a level we hoped would not be met, but which would reflect his truly unique value to Aston Villa,” Purlow said.
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Speaking ahead of Villa’s opening day trip to newly promoted Watford, manager Smith echoed the chief executive’s comments.
Smith said: “Jack was our best player but we never expected £100m to be met and it has been.
Obviously Jack going was a big loss - we wanted to keep him but we would have added more creativity and have added more creativity with [Emiliano] Buendia whether Jack stayed or not. I think we're in a good place.
“We made a £100m from a lad who came through the academy and has set a British record.”
Villa have been busy reinvesting the funds accumulated from Grealish’s departure, bringing in Danny Ings from Southampton and winger Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen to add to Buendia’s capture from Norwich.
The total sum for the three players takes the club’s overall spending to within £5 million of Jack Grealish’s fee, whilst Ashley Young’s return to Villa Park on a free transfer and Axel Tuanzebe’s loan arrival from Manchester United makes it five new faces in Smith’s squad.
As a result the Villa boss believes that the club have a stronger squad than they did last season, as the club seek to improve upon their 11th place finish.
Smith said: “It was important that we strengthened the squad depth this season.
We felt we had an 11 that could compete against anybody including the top teams – now we’ve got more variation, more adaptability, and more depth and that’s really important. I wanted to build a better team if Jack left and I feel we can do that. There was an over-reliance at times, an unconscious over-reliance on Jack.
“I think we’ve moved away from that now. Only time will tell if that’s a good thing but we believe in the team we’ve got and the squad we’ve got, and what we have to do now is prove it on the football pitch.”
Smith also provided a fitness update on his squad ahead of tomorrow, with new boys Buendia and Bailey in contention to make their debuts.
“We are not too sure about Ollie [Watkins] at the moment, if he’s pain-free today then he will train, if not then he won’t be involved.
“Leon [Bailey] has had to isolate but he will be available for the squad on Saturday. He’s a top player and we’re really pleased that he’s here.
“Buendía has had a slight injury but he’s available. He’ll bring the creativity and a spark.”
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