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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has shut down talk of Jack Grealish leaving the club in January amid rumours he is wanted by Manchester United.
According to The Independent’s Miguel Delaney, United are targeting an attacking midfielder this month, and Grealish is top of the list alongside Leicester City’s James Maddison.
Tom Collomosse of the Daily Mail relayed Smith’s comments on the possibility of Grealish leaving:
WhoScored.com’s Martin Laurence had poured cold water on the prospect of United signing him in January, given how important he is to Villa:
Grealish is their best player, and he has enjoyed a fine campaign with eight goals and six assists to his name in all competitions.
He scored the most recent of those on Wednesday as he helped his side to a 2-1 win over Burnley:
United are well aware of what the Villa captain can do, as he also scored a superb goal against them at Old Trafford in December.
The 24-year-old is just as adept at creating opportunities for his team-mates, as football statistician Dave O’Brien demonstrated:
The Red Devils are sorely lacking a creative presence like Grealish in their squad, and they have struggled to break opponents down unless they can hit them with a quick counter-attack.
Paul Pogba is their most creative player, and as his frequent injury-enforced absences have shown this season—he’s played just seven times in the Premier League—they have little beyond him.
Jesse Lingard has been particularly unproductive for the Red Devils, per football writer Daniel Storey:
Juan Mata hasn’t scored or assisted in the Premier League this season, either. Andreas Pereira has one goal and three assists to his name in 18 league outings.
Unfortunately for United, they’ll evidently need to look elsewhere if they want to recruit a playmaker before the summer.
Leicester aren’t quite as reliant on Maddison as Villa are on Grealish, but he’s an important part of their push to finish in a UEFA Champions League spot.
They managed to get an £80 million fee from United for Harry Maguire, a player of similar importance, last summer, and it’s likely they’d want at least a similar sum to part with Maddison—who is contracted until 2023—midseason.