Jack Grealish - who has been linked with Manchester United - acknowledged he is "not too sure" if he has played his final home game for Aston Villa.

Villa captain Grealish led his side to a vital 1-0 home victory over Arsenal on Tuesday, moving Dean Smith's side above Watford and out of the Premier League relegation zone. 

Regardless of his current club's top-flight status, though, the midfielder's future appears to be in some doubt. 

United have been among the clubs touted as suitors for Grealish, who could not confirm he would be back in a Villa shirt at the start of next season. 

"I'm not too sure at the moment," he told Sky Sports. "I have one aim and that's to keep this club in the Premier League. 

"This whole club, this whole stadium and fanbase knows where we belong. That's all I'm thinking about at the moment, keeping this club in the Premier League. Hopefully we can do that on Sunday." 

Trezeguet got the decisive Villa goal - his third in three matches - and Grealish still has not provided a goal or assist since the Premier League's restart. 

However, the Villa talisman felt he was back to somewhere near his best against Arsenal, including sending Keinan Davis clear for one big second-half miss. 

"It would mean everything to me [to keep Villa up]," Grealish said. "I think since we've been back, I probably haven't been as effective as I was before. 

"Truthfully, I haven't felt as fit as I did before the break, but that's no excuse. I just need to do what I know I can do. 

"I've probably done it today. I was probably unlucky not to get an assist in the end." 

For most of the year, Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to leave Inter for Barcelona.

Barca are eyeing a long-term replacement for veteran forward Luis Suarez, though, the coronavirus pandemic appears to have impacted their transfer plans.

However, a blockbuster move could still be on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA STILL WANT TO SIGN LAUTARO

Barcelona remain keen on signing Inter star Lautaro Martinez at the end of the season, according to the front page of Tuesday's Mundo Deportivo.

Barca's interest in Martinez is well documented but a transfer has been put on hold as the LaLiga giants re-assess their plans after the Argentina forward's €111million release clause expired at the start of the month.

However, Barca head coach Quique Setien is reportedly considering three options in his pursuit to recruit Martinez.

Ousmane Dembele could be sold to raise funds or a swap deal involving Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti could be proposed to Inter, while a player plus cash offer including Junior Firpo is the third alternative.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror says Chelsea are ready to swap goalkeepers. Unhappy with the world's most expensive keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea are ready to use the Spaniard as a makeweight in a deal to sign Atletico Madrid star Jan Oblak.

Paris Saint-Germain are eyeing in-demand Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai, reports Tuttosport. The Hungary teenager has been heavily linked to Milan and Napoli, as well as Arsenal.

Ajax are hopeful of keeping star goalkeeper Andre Onana for one more season, claims De Telegraaf. Onana has been linked to the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Barca.

- Journalist Nicolo Schira reports Napoli are confident of reaching an agreement with Lille forward Victor Osimhen. The Nigerian has been tipped to join the Serie A side, who have prepared a five-year contract worth €3.5m per season amid talk of an €80m transfer.

- While Osimhen could arrive, Napoli are set to lose Arkadiusz Milik. Calciomercato claims Italian champions Juventus are interested, while the likes of Atletico, Tottenham and Roma are also keen. Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette is an alternative for Juve, as well as Atletico.

- According to Calciomercato, Edinson Cavani has turned down a move to David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS. A free agent since leaving PSG, Cavani is reportedly wanted by Roma.

Everton and PSG both want to sign Napoli midfielder Allan, says Calciomercato. Napoli are looking to raise funds.

Manchester City will accelerate their rebuilding plans after having their Champions League ban overturned, claims the Telegraph. Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly – also linked to United, Liverpool and Real Madrid previously – is reportedly high on the list of targets, which includes Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell, Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and Atletico star Saul Niguez.

Jack Grealish has not seen sufficient ambition from Aston Villa to tempt him to stay with the club, according to former captain Stiliyan Petrov.

Relegation from the Premier League looks a near certainty for Villa now, after Watford and West Ham claimed potentially decisive wins on Saturday to pull clear of the bottom three.

It will mean Villa's return to the top flight has lasted just one campaign, after Grealish spent three seasons in the Championship helping his boyhood club battle their way back to the elite level.

Grealish is widely expected to leave, having been linked with a host of leading clubs including Manchester United, and the 24-year-old may risk his potential going unfulfilled should he drop into the second tier again.

Although Villa were among the big spenders leading into the 2019-20 season, Petrov suggests the 1982 European Cup winners have still not matched Grealish's needs.

And in turn that leads to the inevitable suspicion he will call time on his Villa career.

Speaking to Stats Perform News, Petrov said: "As a Villa fan I'd love him to stay. Jack likes to compete, he wants to do that at the highest level. He loves the club. He showed that in the Championship, he helped us get promotion, he battled hard in the Premier League.

"If that moment comes [when Grealish leaves], it would be sad to see because he is an exceptional person, not just player. But as a club, have we done enough to keep him?

"I don't think so and it's a big problem going forward as a club, because we may get good players through the youth system, but can we do enough to keep them?

"If he goes, I don't think he can be blamed."

Former Bulgaria star Petrov, who made over 200 appearances for Villa from 2006 until 2012, says it would be a natural progression for Grealish to step up to an established Premier League club.

"Jack has a growth mindset," Petrov said. "He likes to improve, he wants to achieve.

"He likes to be in the spotlight, wants to be counted. He wants to compete at the highest level.

"Of course, he will generate interest from the top clubs because he does perform. If you remember, Pep Guardiola said he's one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.

"That compliment comes from one of the best managers in the world. Those managers don't waste their words saying this about someone who doesn't deserve it.

"That's why Pep came out and said he's one of the best and his performances this season have attracted attention. It's completely normal."

Stiliyan Petrov suggested Graeme Souness' criticism of Jack Grealish might be motivated by "bitterness" as he defended Aston Villa's captain.

Grealish has been linked with both Manchester City and Manchester United after a fine Premier League campaign in which he has scored seven times and created six assists for a Villa side fighting relegation.

However, the 24-year-old's suitability for a leading top-flight side was questioned by ex-Liverpool skipper Souness, who accused him of being a "passenger" when his team do not have the ball.

"Everyone rolls their sleeves up to be the first, second or third one to press. That is something that is not in his game right now," Souness said in his role as a Sky Sports pundit.

"I'm not denying he has talent - but for me there's a big question mark."

The Scot went on to suggest Grealish is the Premier League's most fouled player because he holds onto the ball too long, with the midfielder biting back on Twitter when he retweeted the statistic that showed he has created the second-most chances in the division.

Former Villa skipper Petrov has no doubt that Grealish could cut it with a bigger club.

"Everybody has a view or an opinion about certain players. I have a completely different view of Jack," he told Stats Perform News.

"I believe he has enormous potential to be a great player. At the moment, Jack believes that everything depends on him. He tries to do everything on his own. He tries to create, he tries to assist, he wants to score. So literally he tries to do everything.

"If Jack moves to a bigger team, there will be certain elements of his game that are going to improve. Jack has everything to be a top player. At the moment, with the current situation at Aston Villa, he is the one everyone looks up to. He wants to be everything for Aston Villa, which is great.

"We forget he's only 24. I don't agree. Yeah, he holds the ball longer because he has to, he needs to do it, and he knows that. But if he moves on to play with better players he knows how to play, he knows how to adapt. Good players do that and he's certainly a good player.

"So I wouldn't really agree with what Graeme is saying. I think sometimes it can be a little bit bitterness, could be a challenge from Souness – he may believe that he's a good player and he's challenging him with what he's saying.

"I can see his point of view is very different to what I think. I believe Jack would be a big asset for a big club."

Petrov, who spent 13 years with Villa, then highlighted Pep Guardiola's praise of Grealish, who the Manchester City boss called "one of the best players in the league" earlier this season.

"That compliment comes from one of the best managers in the world," Petrov added.

"Those managers don't waste their words saying these things. That's why Pep comes out and said he's one of the best and said his performances have attracted attention. It's completely normal."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dismissed the idea of signing Bournemouth's Nathan Ake after a video appearing to show the Manchester United manager suggesting he wanted to do a deal for the centre-back went viral.

United crushed Bournemouth 5-2 in the Premier League on Saturday, with Ake featuring for the visitors at Old Trafford.

At full-time, Solskjaer greeted Ake and briefly exchanged words, and a clip of that moment was shared on social media with subtitles suggesting the Norwegian told the Netherlands international he was hoping to buy a left-footed centre-back.

Unsurprisingly it led to considerable debate and interest on social channels, though Solskjaer has distanced himself from his alleged comments.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Thursday's Premier League trip to Aston Villa, Solskjaer said: "I've got seven centre-backs.

"I don't know where that's come from. We're fine."

Another player who has been strongly linked with a switch to Old Trafford this season is Jack Grealish, who will be hoping to impress at Villa Park on Thursday.

The attacking midfielder caught the eye and scored a spectacular goal when the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in December, though Solskjaer would not be lured into a trap by lavishing him with praise, adamant United cannot afford to just concentrate on the playmaker.

"I think in the last game they caused us some problems, both Grealish off left and [Anwar] El Ghazi on right," he said.  

"He [Grealish] scored a fantastic goal. There's been loads said about him and we need to be aware of him, if he's off the left, middle or right.

"He attracts players to him but there's not just one player in that Villa team, there are a lot of them."

United go to Villa Park 16 matches unbeaten across all competitions and, following Leicester City's 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Tuesday, know victory will leave them just a point off fourth.

Solskjaer still feels United need to win their remaining five matches to secure a top-four finish, however, with their final game a potentially vital showdown with Leicester at the King Power Stadium.

"I think so, yes, you never know what's going to happen but it looks like teams around are playing well," he added.

"There are so many games, if you win every single one, we're in the top four. We cannot rely on help from anyone else, have to do it ourselves and go into next season we can put other challenges into teams."

Manchester City could be ready to challenge rivals Manchester United for Aston Villa star Jack Grealish.

Grealish, 24, has been linked with a move away from Villa, with Old Trafford seemingly his most likely destination.

But City may be primed to join the race for the attacker.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY CONSIDER MOVE FOR MAN UTD TARGET GREALISH

Manchester City will consider a move for Grealish if they receive their asking price for Leroy Sane from Bayern Munich, according to The Telegraph.

Sane is set to leave the Premier League giants this close season amid continued links to Bayern.

And City could challenge Manchester United for Grealish – who has scored nine goals and provided eight assists in 35 games this season – if their asking price is met.

ROUND-UP

- Quique Setien is under increasing pressure at Barcelona. RAC1 reports Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, chief executive Oscar Grau, sporting director Javier Bordas and technical secretary Eric Abidal met at Setien's house on Monday to discuss the current situation. Trailing Real Madrid by two points in LaLiga, Esport3 says Setien could be fired as early as this week.

- Arsenal have made a decision regarding Dani Ceballos. The Sun says the Premier League club will not make a move to buy the midfielder from Real Madrid when his loan deal expires at the end of the season.

- With Serie A promotion secured, Benevento could be set to strengthen. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the club are set to sign former Chelsea forward Loic Remy, who is coming out of contract at Lille.

- Real Sociedad are leading the chase to sign Real Madrid midfielder Takefusa Kubo on loan next season, according to AS. The 19-year-old has been on loan at Mallorca this season, while Milan are also reportedly interested in the Japan international.

- With Timo Werner joining Chelsea, RB Leipzig have seemingly found a replacement from the forward. According to Sky, Hwang Hee-chan will join Leipzig from Salzburg for about €10million. Hwang has been linked to the likes of Liverpool and Wolves.

- Celtic are reportedly keen to hold onto Fraser Forster. The goalkeeper has been on loan from Southampton this season and The Sun reports Celtic want to buy the former England international.

Barcelona midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Miralem Pjanic are seemingly getting closer to swapping clubs.

The LaLiga and Serie A giants have been linked with numerous moves this close season, but one may be getting close to completion.

Arthur and Pjanic are set to trade places and it could be close to reality.

 

TOP STORY – ARTHUR, PJANIC SET FOR MEDICALS IN TURIN

Barcelona midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Pjanic will undergo medicals on Sunday, according to Sport.

The Catalan sports paper says Arthur flew to Italy on Saturday accompanied by a Barcelona doctor ahead of checks in Turin.

Arthur will then return to Barcelona and finish the season with the LaLiga champions, who slipped up again in their title defence on Saturday as Celta Vigo twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United may still be trying to find a way to land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho. The Mirror reports United need to sell at least four stars – including Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard – if they are to get a deal done for Sancho.

- Staying at Old Trafford and United could be getting closer to signing Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish. The Daily Express says Grealish has found a house to buy in the North West.

- Chelsea may yet strengthen further ahead of next season. According to The Sun, they are growing confident they will sign West Ham star Declan Rice in the close season.

- Arsenal's decision to re-sign David Luiz has been criticised. However, The Telegraph reports the Brazilian defender agreed to a significant pay cut.

- Tanguy Ndombele's future may be at Tottenham. Football.London reports Spurs have no plans to sell Ndombele at the end of the season, with Jose Mourinho having denied reports of a rift with the midfielder earlier this week.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not know how much money he will have at his disposal in the transfer market amid the coronavirus pandemic.

United have been linked with big money moves for the likes of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham among others.

The Red Devils – without a Premier League crown since 2013 – are expected to be active buyers in the market after watching bitter rivals Liverpool claim their first league title since 1990.

However, Solskjaer warned United's plans could be impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, which forced the 2019-20 season to be postponed in March before it returned earlier this month.

"I think the pandemic has hit everyone really hard," Solskjaer said ahead of Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final at Norwich City.

"I still think we need to wait and see how things are panning out to know the real effects of the pandemic, to know what kind of financial state we are in.

"You see some teams invest, some teams don't. We'll have to take a big look at things ourselves to see how hard we've been hit. I know the club has announced a few numbers before.

"It's not for me to say here now we are going to have X amount because I don't really know. I don't really know how hard we have been hit. We are a financially strong club, but we are also probably being hit more than anybody else.

"Let's see how quickly we can get our fans back into the stadium and of course the league position is going to be important for us this season. If we can get a trophy, the FA Cup or the Europa League.

"The Europa League will also qualify us for the Champions League, there's still a lot of uncertainty and these three or four months, every businessman in the world, every footballer in the world, I think everyone is still unsure what the effect will be."

United are fifth in the Premier League through 31 rounds, five points adrift of Chelsea – who occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has been charged with driving without due care and attention, and failing to stop at or report a collision.

Grealish is set to appear in court on August 25 following an alleged incident when he breached lockdown regulations on March 29.

The midfielder was pictured on social media on a Birmingham street next to a Range Rover, which had apparently collided with two parked cars.

Grealish apologised and said he was "deeply embarrassed" after it emerged he had visited a friend's house, breaching government rules that were imposed to try to limit the spread of coronavirus.

West Midlands Police launched an investigation and on Thursday revealed the playmaker, linked with Manchester United, has been charged.

"A Premier League footballer has been charged with driving without due care and attention, and failing to stop at or report a collision," a police statement said.

"Jack Grealish is accused of the offences in Waterside, Dickens Heath, Solihull, on Sunday March 29.

"An investigation was launched after we responded to reports of a car hitting parked vehicles and the driver fleeing on foot.

"The 24-year-old from Barnt Green, Worcestershire, has been postal charged to appear before Birmingham Magistrates Court on August 25."

Grealish donated £150,000 to Birmingham Children's Hospital and raised £55,000 for the NHS by raffling off one of his shirts after breaching lockdown regulations soon after they were imposed.

He played in Villa's goalless draw with Sheffield United behind closed doors at Villa Park on Wednesday, the first game of the Premier League season since it was suspended in March.

Manchester United know what they will need to pay for Aston Villa star Jack Grealish, and they may look elsewhere.

Grealish has been linked with a move to Old Trafford after an impressive campaign with Villa.

However, United could opt for a cheaper alternative.

 

TOP STORY – VILLA WANT £80M FOR MAN UTD TARGET GREALISH

Aston Villa want at least £80million for Jack Grealish amid links to Manchester United, according to the Daily Mail.

The report says Villa also have hope of keeping the attacker if they can avoid Premier League relegation.

Grealish, 24, has scored seven goals and provided six assists in 26 Premier League games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could Manchester United look elsewhere? The Sun reports United are eyeing Bayer Leverkusen forward Leon Bailey as a cheaper alternative to Grealish and Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

- Staying at Old Trafford and France Football claims Manchester United have made contact with Willian, who is coming out of contract at Chelsea.

- Miralem Pjanic's Juventus future seems unclear. Sport reports the midfielder is moving away from the Serie A club amid links to Barcelona and Chelsea.

- Perhaps Juventus and Chelsea could be set for a swap deal. The Sun says Chelsea are set to be offered Adrien Rabiot and Federico Bernardeschi for Jorginho and Marcos Alonso.

- Another player who has been linked to Manchester United is Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. However, BILD reports Borussia Dortmund have reached an agreement with the 16-year-old midfielder, but are having problems with the transfer fee.

- On loan at Borussia Dortmund since 2018, Achraf Hakimi is due to return to Real Madrid. However, AS reports Bayern Munich are eager to sign the full-back and are willing to offer a sizeable transfer fee and salary.

Jadon Sancho has been linked to Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid among others.

Sancho is reportedly looking to leave Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.

But a reunion with former club Manchester City could be on the cards for the England international.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO WILLING TO RE-JOIN CITY

Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho is open to returning to Manchester City, according to The Sun.

Sancho is tipped to leave Dortmund at the end of the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 season amid strong links to Manchester United, as well as Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

However, Sancho is believed to be willing to re-join City – the club he left for Dortmund in 2017.

 

ROUND-UP

- With uncertainty over Sancho, United could turn to Jack Grealish. The Daily Star says Aston Villa captain Grealish has his heart set on moving to Old Trafford.

Tottenham want to sign Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Thiago Silva, reports The Sun. Silva is set to leave the Ligue 1 champions on a free transfer and Jose Mourinho is keen to bring the Brazil defender to Spurs. Arsenal and Everton are also eyeing the 35-year-old.

- Corriere della Sera says Gianluigi Donnarumma is ready to extend his contract with Milan, though the new deal could include a €60million release clause. The Italy international goalkeeper has previously been linked to the likes of Juventus, Madrid, PSG and United.

- Roma star Lorenzo Pellegrini is committed to staying at the capital club despite reported interest from Juve, United and PSG, claims Sky Sport Italia and Tuttomercatoweb.

Arsenal are close to agreeing a deal for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, according to Cadena COPE. Atletico are determined to renew Partey's contract but the LaLiga side are resigned to losing the Ghana international – who has also been linked to United.

Jack Grealish or Jadon Sancho at Old Trafford?

Manchester United have been linked to both players.

But Aston Villa's Grealish has reportedly surged ahead of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon as United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer eyes reinforcements.

 

TOP STORY – GREALISH LEAPFROGS SANCHO AS UTD TARGET

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has moved ahead of Jadon Sancho on Manchester United's wishlist, according to the Mirror.

United have been tipped to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho at the end of the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 season.

But Grealish now reportedly tops United's list of transfer targets due to Dortmund's demands.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca reports Barcelona risk losing out on signing Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. The LaLiga champions are favourites to prise Martinez to Camp Nou but they are yet to agree a deal. Now, United and Real Madrid are waiting in the wings.

Inter remain hopeful of signing Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal, says Calciomercato. It comes as the Nerazzurri also target Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali.

- The Mirror claims Liverpool have turned their attention to signing Wolves star Adama Traore as RB Leipzig's Timo Werner looks set to join Premier League rivals Chelsea.

Madrid have made an €80million offer for Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz, according to Bild. The deal would also see Havertz stay at Leverkusen on loan next season. The in-demand Germany international is also reportedly wanted by Bayern Munich, United and Liverpool.

- The Daily Mail reports United are looking to hijack Madrid's pursuit of Ajax star Donny van de Beek.

- Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani has turned down Inter as he heads to Atletico Madrid on a free transfer, says Tuttosport.

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish regrets breaking the United Kingdom's lockdown rules but does not believe he should be defined by his mistake.

In late March, Grealish was pictured on social media on a Birmingham street next to his Range Rover, which had collided with two parked cars. The incident is being investigated by West Midlands Police.

Grealish later apologised and said he was "deeply embarrassed" after it emerged he had visited a friend's house, thereby flouting government restrictions that were imposed to try and limit the spread of coronavirus.

Just a day earlier, Grealish had taken to social media to urge people to follow protocols and he has since donated £150,000 to Birmingham Children's Hospital and raised £55,000 for the NHS by raffling off one of his shirts.

Grealish acknowledged his error of judgement, telling reporters: "I knew straight away that I had to come out and apologise myself, which I wanted to do; I didn't want to hide behind a club statement.

"I know I am a footballer but I'm still human and we all make mistakes and straight away I knew I'd made a mistake. 

"I'm also a role model as well to a lot of people out there, especially young children who might look up to me. So I try to act in respectable manner but since then I have tried to keep my head down, work hard and do as much charitable work as possible."

Grealish says people will always focus on his errors despite his efforts to make amends.

"That's just the way things are in this world that we live in. Everyone knows when you do something it's always going to be the bad stuff that gets out there," he added. 

"That's what I have to deal with. I respect my job, absolutely love what I do, and wouldn't change it for the world."

The Premier League is set to return later this month after a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Villa's return to training was overshadowed by the death of the father of manager Dean Smith as a result of coronavirus.

With Villa two points adrift of safety with a game in hand, Grealish said the squad is even more determined to avoid relegation for the Smith family.

"I always used to ask him every day how his dad was getting on," Grealish said. "Then when the news came it was devastating for him and his family. Us as players have tried to be there for him and try to help him. 

"One good thing about football when you are having a problem away off the pitch, when you do come into training or play a match, it takes your mind off everything else. It certainly does for me. That's what we tried to do for the manager.

"I'm sure we all want to avoid relegation even more now, for the Smith family."

Jack Grealish possesses the natural talent to play for Manchester United or any big club, according to former Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill.

Midfielder Grealish has long been linked with a move to Old Trafford, with Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said to have identified him as a prime target to bolster his midfield.

With clubs facing uncertainty over the coming months due to the coronavirus crisis, it remains unclear whether United or any other side will be prepared to spend significant sums on the likes of Grealish this year.

But while he is cautious of passing judgement on whether Grealish would thrive at a major club, O'Neill certainly thinks the 24-year-old has enough ability.

Speaking to Stats Perform News, he said: "On Grealish's future, that's difficult to say. He's a big fans' favourite and Villa is his football club as well.

Are you saying, 'Does he have the ability to play for Manchester United'? Certainly, the natural talent to play for any of the big clubs – there's no question about that.

"I just don't know enough and I'm in no position to make that judgement."

Grealish's future may also depend on whether Villa can avoid relegation from the Premier League this season.

The club have spent in the region of £143million on new signings since winning promotion via the Championship play-offs last term.

Despite the huge investment, Dean Smith's side are 19th in the table and two points from safety, although they have a game in hand on their nearest rivals.

O'Neill, who was in charge at Villa Park from 2006 to 2010, has been surprised to see his old side struggle in the top flight and is concerned they have become too dependent on their captain.

"My own view was that they had a super end to the Championship season, they were the best team in it by a long distance, I felt," he said.

"I honestly thought that they wouldn't have too much difficulty in staying up. They've put some money in, a lot of money in, some people say between 130 and 150 million pounds.

"So, I didn't expect them to struggle at all this season. I expected it to be difficult, but not to struggle.

"I met Jack Grealish a number of years ago when we wanted him to play for the Republic of Ireland and he chose to play with England, no problem with that whatsoever – his father is English and he had played underage football for the Republic of Ireland, he made that decision and that's absolutely fine.

"He's very strong; he's much stronger than he was five years ago, a quality player, hard to rob.

"You would hope that, at the end, Villa would have enough to pull themselves around and see it through. Of course, if you're depending on one player, which they have been over the past couple of months, that can cause a problem."

Have Barcelona found their new Dani Alves?

According to reports in Spain, the Blagurana have identified Ajax teenager Sergino Dest as the long-term solution to their problematic right-back spot.

Despite his inexperience, it seems the 19-year-old could command a sizeable eight-figure sum.

 

TOP STORY – DEST THE BEST FOR BARCA

Nelson Semedo's proposed move to either Manchester City or Juventus looks set to pave the way for Barca to bring in a highly rated new right-back.

And the Catalan club know exactly what it will take to land their preferred target: €20million.

That is the fee Spanish newspaper Sport suggests will be enough to secure United States defender Dest when the transfer window reopens.

The Dutch-born full-back, who spurned Netherlands' interest in his international future, only recently graduated from Ajax's youth setup, making 15 Eredivisie starts before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed his breakthrough 2019-20 campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- AC Milan are interested in Freiburg centre-back Robin Koch but the Rossoneri could face competition from Serie A rivals Napoli, claims CalcioMercato.

- Heading across town and Inter appear more interested in attacking reinforcements amid the uncertainty surrounding Lautaro Martinez. La Repubblica suggests the Nerazzurri are on the cusp of agreeing personal terms with Napoli forward Dries Mertens, who will become a free agent on June 30.

- Is a transfer battle brewing in Manchester? The Sun claims City boss Pep Guardiola wants to beat crosstown rivals United to Argentine attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, the promising Velez product said to be viewed as the successor to David Silva.

- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United could encounter more transfer frustration if Aston Villa continue to stand firm over their Jack Grealish valuation. According to the Mirror, relegation-threatened Villa are not prepared to budge on their £80m asking price.

- Ligue 1 heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain could move for experienced former Arsenal right-back Mathieu Debuchy, now of Saint-Etienne, to replace the out-of-contract Thomas Meunier, reports Le10Sport.

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