Dean Smith: "Jack Grealish will cost someone a hell of a lot of money"

Colossal weekend coming up for Villa

One of the weekends that all football fans look forward to is almost upon us, with the EFL play-off finals kicking off on Saturday. Six sides are all vying for promotion at Wembley which is rounded off on Monday with the most expensive game in the sport, the Championship play-off final.

Aston Villa and Derby County face off with the winner knowing that they'll earn a spot in the Premier League, in a match worth an estimated £170m. It's a staggering figure and the pressure on both sides is absolutely massive, with each club desperate to return to the big time.

Villa come into it as favourites and they have the experience of last season to call upon, when they were beaten 1-0 by Fulham. It was a tough result to take for them and they'll use that to drive them on this time around against a very good Derby side.

This is their third season in the second tier and if they don't return to the Premier League this time around it could have big consequences for a number of reasons. This is set to be their final season of parachute payments from their relegation back in 2016 which means FFP could be a concern next year, along with potentially losing their loanees that have done so well.

But arguably the biggest concern comes in the form of their skipper and talisman, Jack Grealish. The 23 year-old has enjoyed another superb season in the second tier and big Premier League clubs are expected to come knocking again this summer regardless of whether Villa win promotion or not.

Jack Grealish Aston Villa
Jack Grealish has relished the challenge of captaining his boyhood club and it's seen him take his game to new levels - resulting in a spot in the PFA Team of the Year

Going up would certainly strengthen Villa's bid to keep their star man but you really feel that a defeat would leave them with no choice but to sell him. Last season he was immensely impressive but he's taken his games to new heights since Dean Smith arrived at the club back in October, so they'll be desperate to retain him at all costs.

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When you think of Aston Villa over the last few seasons, the first name that immediately comes to mind is Jack Grealish.

This guy is Villa through and through. He's from Birmingham, he's a fan and he came through the clubs academy. Now skipper, he shoulders the responsibility of leading this huge club from the supporters and so far he's doing a fantastic job.

But despite being a fan and in love with the club, he's reaching a stage where he needs to play at a higher level for the progression of his career. Villa recognised this last summer by rewarding his efforts with a new, lucrative five-year contract to strengthen their position as a seller, but they'll be braced for bids regardless of the outcome of Monday's Wembley clash.

Another defeat in the final at the national stadium will more than likely see Grealish leave, with Champions League finalists Tottenham strongly linked with a move for him. A move to North London would be hugely appealing for him but Villa boss Dean Smith has warned potential suitors that they won't take their prized asset away on the cheap.

“If we don’t go up he’ll cost someone a hell of a lot of money if they want to buy him. For me he is committed to Aston Villa and we’ve not even spoken about it otherwise.

“He’s signed a brand new contract at the start of the season, committing himself to the football club. He loves Aston Villa and he’ll want nothing more than to get promoted with Aston Villa.”

Jack Grealish Aston Villa
Dean Smith has had a massive impact on Grealish's development

The prospect of losing Grealish is a scary one for Villa fans but at least they know that the club have a firm stance on his future. The majority of them wouldn't begrudge him for leaving after sticking with them following last years defeat and the money will obviously be very beneficial, especially with the parachute payments ending this season.

These are a concern for everyone involved with the club after the scare they suffered following last years final defeat under former owner Tony Xia. But Smith is confident that in current owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris, they have the clubs best interests and security covered regardless of the outcome on Monday.

“You have to prepare for winning or losing, one way or another, on Monday night we will either be a Premier League team or a Championship team and you have to have two scenarios for it.

“But the difference this year is that the owners we’ve got are fully behind the club and it’s on an even keel and hopefully moving in an upwards direction.”

Monday is bound to be some game and the implications could be huge, especially for Villa. Keeping Grealish is crucial and if they can win promotion there's no reason why he can't take his game to the next level with his home town club.

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