Pep Guardiola insists Lionel Messi is not part of Manchester City's transfer plans after the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's sensational exit from Barcelona.

Messi was widely expected to sign a new deal at Camp Nou this week, to prolong a career-long association with Barca after his previous terms expired in June.

However, the club issued a statement on Thursday stating "financial and structural obstacles" – relating to both the Blaugrana's parlous financial state and LaLiga's strict economic controls – prevented Messi from signing a contract to which he had already agreed.

City were widely understood to be Messi's preferred destination when he attempted to leave Barcelona 12 months ago, but Paris Saint-Germain are viewed as the frontrunners this time around.

That impression was only heightened after Guardiola ruled out a reunion with his former protege, insisting City would proceed with the transfer plans that saw £100million man Jack Grealish become their record signing on Thursday.

"We have spent £40m on Jack Grealish - 100 we pay and 60 we won last year." Guardiola said, in one of several reference to the £60m boost his transfer kitty has received from City selling academy and loan players.

"He'll have the number 10 because we were incredibly convinced with Jack Grealish and were convinced that Leo would continue at Barcelona.

"Right now [signing Messi] is not in our thoughts, absolutely not."

Messi ascended to his place at the top of world football under Guardiola's guidance between 2008 and 2012, winning LaLiga on three occasions and the Champions League twice among a host of honours.

"It was a surprise for everyone, me included. President [Joan] Laporta was clear on the reason why," said Guardiola, who was speaking ahead of Saturday's Community Shield meeting with Leicester City at Wembley.

"They'd both like to continue. When you have €487m losses in one year the decision is made, unfortunately.

"As a supporter I'd love to him to have finished there but the club is not sustainable. What's happened is not good there and that's why they arrived in those terms [of Messi leaving].

"As a fan, incredible gratitude for the most extraordinary player I've ever seen in my life. Much more than for the titles he won for Barcelona, for what he did for me, to help me to become a better manager, to go to Munich and England.

"We won a lot, more than that is the incredible about of emotions and feelings to be in front of the TV watching what he can do with the ball with his mates in one football game. Day by day, game by game he did something unique."

As it stands, Messi's final appearance in a Barcelona shirt will be a 2-1 home loss to Celta Vigo as LaLiga slipped away last season.

Guardiola hopes a more fitting goodbye can be arranged.

"Hopefully one day we can properly have the best farewell game ever, because he deserves it," he added. "His contribution helped to take this club to another level, to dominate the world during a decade."

Aston Villa have confirmed they received a record £100million fee for Jack Grealish, who addressed the fans of his hometown club after leaving for Manchester City.

Premier League champions City announced the signing of Grealish on a six-year contract on Thursday.

A £100m fee – a record for a Premier League club – was widely reported, and Villa CEO Christian Purslow confirmed that amount in a message to fans.

City's bid – one of several approaches from numerous clubs – triggered a release clause agreed with Grealish at the start of last season, Purslow explained.

"Last summer, following interest from a number of clubs, we offered Jack a new contract to stay at the club, which he accepted with one proviso," Purslow said in a video message.

"Jack wanted to be certain that if at any point a Champions League club came in for him and Aston Villa was not in that competition, that we would not stand in his way.

"For that reason, we agreed to incorporate a so-called release clause into his contract.

"Our board set this clause at a value of £100m, knowing that would be by some way a record price for a British footballer and also a record fee for any player bought by a Premier League club.

"Put another way, we set the value at a level we hoped would not be met but which would reflect his truly unique value to Aston Villa.

"After a brilliant season for Jack, culminating in his performances at the Euros, a number of clubs expressed interest in signing him, initially at figures below the release clause. We simply refused to entertain those approaches.

"Finally, Manchester City notified us that they would be willing to pay the £100m it would take to trigger this clause.

"After many hours of discussions involving Jack, his family and his agent, during which we made clear our strong desire for him to stay at Aston Villa, Jack finally decided that he would like to go to City and instructed us to exercise his release clause as was his prerogative."

As Purslow spoke to the Villa fans on Thursday, so did boyhood fan Grealish, who had captained the side since 2019.

In a statement on his social media page, he said in part: "I'll always be a Villa fan – I love this club with all my heart and I hope you understand my reasons for seeking a new challenge."

Purslow explained how difficult the decision had been for Grealish, saying: "It was a highly emotional moment when he finally told me his decision, leaving me in no doubt how hard it had been for him to decide to leave our club, which he joined when he was six years old.

"Ultimately, he said it boiled down to wanting to play Champions League football now."

Indicating the mutual respect between player and board, Grealish's statement continued: "The club are in great hands, the manager, the lads, the new signings coming in – it's an exciting time to be a Villa fan."

Villa have already signed Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, three players for combined fees amounting to close to £100m.

Purslow confirmed the club had planned to replace Grealish – who scored six goals and added 10 assists last season – with a trio of stars rather than going for a single like-for-like buy.

"I want you all to be reassured that the board, Dean Smith, Johan Lange and I obviously knew this day might come and we have planned accordingly," he said.

"It was never our intention to replace Jack with one footballer, our strategy was to analyse and break down Jack's key attributes – his creativity, his assists, his goals – and to find these qualities and others in three forward players.

"In signing Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, we believe we have achieved this key objective and in doing so have also reduced an overdependency on one brilliant footballer."

Injuries limited Grealish to 26 league appearances last season, in which Villa had an outstanding 50 per cent winning record.

That dropped to 25 per cent in the 12 matches he missed, with their points-per-game return falling from 1.7 to 1.0.

Villa will hope their three lucrative signings will ensure those statistics are not repeated, with their creative talents set to boost a side that scored only 1.1 goals per game without Grealish.

Jack Grealish has completed his record transfer to Premier League champions Manchester City in a deal worth a reported £100million.

England international Grealish has spent his entire career at Aston Villa and has been captain of the club since 2019.

The 25-year-old played a pivotal role in helping Villa retain their top-flight status at the end of the 2019-20 season, after which he was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

He instead signed a new long-term contract but, after scoring six league goals and adding a further 10 assists across 26 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign, Grealish has now made the move north to Manchester.

Pep Guardiola's City have smashed the previous British transfer record – set by United's acquisition of Paul Pogba in August 2016 – to get the playmaker, who created 81 chances in the league last term.

Grealish has signed a six-year deal with City and said: "I am incredibly happy to have joined Manchester City.

"City are the best team in the country with a manager considered to be the best in the world – it's a dream come true to be part of this club.

"Over the past 10 seasons, they have won major trophies consistently. Pep coming here has taken them to the next level and the football this team plays is the most exciting in Europe.

"To play for Pep and learn from him is going to be special and it's something any top footballer would want.

"The facilities are amazing, and I honestly can't wait to get started, meet everyone and get playing."

His departure leaves a huge void at Villa, though they have been spending big this close season, bringing in Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings in lucrative moves.

Grealish is City's first major signing of the window, with the champions also strongly linked with signing Harry Kane from Tottenham.

England captain Kane failed to report back for pre-season training with Spurs as planned, following an extended break after Euro 2020.

The 28-year-old, who topped the Premier League scoring and assist charts last term, has outlined his intention to leave Tottenham and was reportedly the subject of a £100m offer from City earlier in the window.

Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain says record-breaking signing Jack Grealish is a "perfect match" with the Premier League champions.

Grealish, 25, completed a move to Pep Guardiola's men for a reported £100million fee on Thursday, making him the most expensive signing in Premier League history.

Guardiola's newest recruit adds further creativity to City's already handsome depth of attacking talent at the Etihad Stadium and Begiristain could not be happier with the acquisition of Aston Villa's former captain.

Begiristain, speaking to the club's official website upon the announcement of Grealish's signing, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be able to welcome Jack Grealish to Manchester City. He is an incredible talent.

"Jack's development over the past few seasons both for club and country has been plain for everybody to see. His natural talent together with his commitment to improve as a player, has seen him become one of the most exciting attacking players in world football today.

"I am certain that the fans are going to love seeing him in our team. Pep loves the way he plays, and we all feel he is an ideal fit for Manchester City. Our style and his style are a perfect match. I'm excited to watch him over the coming years."

Having been Villa's standout performer during their 2019-20 Premier League survival campaign, Grealish stepped up another notch the following season.

The England midfielder netted six times, recorded 10 assists and created 81 chances – putting him third in the league – in 26 appearances during the 2020-21 season.

He created 26 more chances from open play than any other team-mate and was just seven short of Bruno Fernandes' league-high 77.

Jack Grealish is, finally, a Manchester City player.

The Premier League champions have long been linked with the Aston Villa captain and, after weeks of speculation, a deal worth a reported £100million – a Premier League record – takes him to the Etihad Stadium.

Grealish, along with Harry Kane, reportedly represented City's top target as Pep Guardiola adds further creativity to an attacking unit which was already the envy of European football.

With the deal complete, Stats Perform has assessed what Grealish will bring to his new club.

THE NUMBERS

Grealish played 26 times in the league last season, missing 12 games towards the end of the campaign due to a shin injury.

He scored six times, adding 10 assists. His 70 chances created from open play was 26 more than any other Villa player, and only seven shy of Bruno Fernandes' league-leading 77.

When counting chances created in total, including from set plays, Grealish (81) ranked third in the league, behind Mason Mount (87) and Fernandes (95), though they played 10 and 11 games more than the Villa captain respectively.

Grealish outscored his expected goals tally of 4.65, while only Harry Kane (14), Kevin De Bruyne (12) and Fernandes (12) supplied more assists.

The playmaker, who generally featured on the left flank for Villa, attempted 110 dribbles, tallying up a success rate of 59.09 per cent, the seventh-best out of Premier League players to attempt 100 or more dribbles.

 

HOW HE WILL FIT IN

Capable of playing centrally or wide, Grealish will add another high-quality, versatile option to Guardiola's already packed squad. His 81 chances created leads the way out of City and Villa players from last term, with De Bruyne (80) a close second.

No Villa or City player attempted or completed more dribbles than Grealish, whose ability to carry the ball into dangerous positions and then release a timely pass will surely be a big draw for Guardiola, though he will want sharp, snappy passing to be brought into the midfielder's game.

Based on City's current options, Grealish would likely be competing with De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez – though several of those players have been linked with moves away – for a place in the team, either as a central midfielder or a wide attacker in the champions' preferred 4-3-3 system.

Of that sextet, only De Bruyne played more passes, including crosses, into the penalty area (239) than Grealish. However, he was some 90 ahead, while playing one game less.

Grealish's shot count of 50 ranked him fifth out of those seven players, with his shot conversion rate of 12 per cent also the fifth-best.

De Bruyne (7.4 per cent from 80) and Silva (7.14 per cent from 28) had a lower conversion percentage, though logic would suggest Grealish will have more opportunities to shoot in a City team that managed 599 attempts last season, 79 more than Villa's total.

 

HOW WILL VILLA MANAGE?

Villa had already gone some way to mitigating the damage a potential transfer would cause, with Emiliano Buendia – a creative fulcrum for Norwich City last season – arriving earlier in the transfer window.

Ashley Young has made a return to Villa Park on a free transfer from Serie A champions Inter, while Villa also made several bids for Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe before the 20-year-old signed a new deal with the Gunners.

Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen's flying winger, was confirmed as a Villa player on Wednesday, meanwhile.

The Jamaica international scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists in 40 appearances last season, and his arrival could certainly soften the blow somewhat, though there is a chance he may need time to adapt from the Bundesliga.

Bailey created 63 chances in total, with 11 of these classed as 'big chances' – Grealish, by comparison, created 14 such opportunities in league football in 2020-21.

And Bailey's arrival was quickly followed by that of Danny Ings, a shock recruit from Southampton. The England forward has scored 31 non-penalty goals in the Premier League over the past two seasons, a tally only topped by Mohamed Salah (32) and Kane (35).

While Villa will still have to adapt without Grealish, they could also yet pursue significant upgrades elsewhere in the squad as Dean Smith looks to push for European qualification. Norwich's Todd Cantwell and Southampton and England midfielder James Ward-Prowse have been linked.

City, meanwhile, have signed one of English football's best talents, with Grealish having the opportunity to head into his prime years at one of Europe's leading clubs.

Pep Guardiola's quest to conquer Europe and continue domestic domination with Manchester City has seen him sign Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish in a deal reportedly worth £100million.

Grealish becomes the most expensive signing in Premier League history after being prised away from Villa Park, where he had spent his entire career and captained his boyhood club since 2019.

The England international, who helped the Three Lions to a first major final appearance in 55 years at Euro 2020, has regularly been linked away from Villa but committed his future after rumoured interest from Manchester United, signing a long-term contract in 2020.

In the 2020-21 campaign, the 25-year old contributed with six league goals and 10 assists, while also creating 81 chances across 26 appearances for the Villains.

Dean Smith will no longer have the playmaker to call upon, though, as Guardiola has demolished the previous Premier League transfer record – set by Paul Pogba's return to United in 2016 – to secure Grealish's services.

After City's record-breaking acquisition of Grealish, Stats Perform looks at the other most expensive signings in English top-flight history.

PAUL POGBA – Juventus to Manchester United, £89.3m

Jose Mourinho's first transfer window with the Red Devils saw the France midfielder return to Old Trafford in a then-world record transfer.

Since making that reunion in 2016-17, only Marcus Rashford (78) and Anthony Martial (64) have been involved in more Premier League goals for United than Pogba (57 – 28 goals, 29 assists), while the midfielder has created more top-flight chances (207) than any other player for the club during this period.

He scored and assisted one apiece for France at Euro 2020, while only Antoine Griezmann (10) created more chances than Pogba's eight for Les Bleus.

HARRY MAGUIRE – Leicester City to Manchester United £80m

United broke the world transfer record for a defender in 2002 when they signed Rio Ferdinand for £30m and 17 years later they acquired Maguire for more than double that fee.

The centre-back endured a tricky start to life in Manchester, however, his quality eventually shone through as he strung together 71 consecutive appearances for United.

Despite missing the last four games of the 2020-21 campaign, Maguire ranked second in the Premier League for aerial challenges won (135) and fifth for successful duels (203) before featuring prominently at Euro 2020 for England.

 

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Southampton to Liverpool, £75m

Jurgen Klopp, albeit under contentious circumstances, convinced Van Dijk to move away from St. Mary's Stadium in December 2017.

The commanding Netherlands captain guided Liverpool to their sixth Champions League success in 2018-19 before playing a key role as the Reds ended their 30-year wait for an English title.

Van Dijk's absence severely affected their Premier League defence last term. Klopp's men have won 75.8 per cent of their league matches with Van Dijk in the side since his debut in January 2018, a figure that falls to 54.3 per cent in his absence.

 

ROMELU LUKAKU – Everton to Manchester United £75m

The Belgium forward never settled in at Old Trafford and left after two seasons, despite converting 42 times in 96 games for United.

Lukaku scored twice in United's stunning Champions League last-16 comeback victory over Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 before completing a switch to Inter, where he helped Antonio Conte's men to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

During the title-winning campaign, Lukaku shunned doubts over his finishing as he converted almost one in four chances to bag 24 goals and improved his link-up play to form an effective partnership with Lautaro Martinez. Since his Inter debut only five players have scored more goals in Europe's top five leagues than Lukaku (64).

He has now been linked with a return to former club Chelsea in a deal which could shatter Grealish's new record.

 

JADON SANCHO – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United £73m

After leaving Manchester City in 2017 for Borussia Dortmund, Sancho found himself signing for the red half of Manchester four years later. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pursued Sancho for multiple transfer windows and finally got his man in the wake of England's Euro 2020 shoot-out heartbreak.

Since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, the 21-year-old has been directly involved in the joint-most goals of any English player across the top five European leagues (78), while he has played fewer minutes than Harry Kane – also on 78 – in this period.

Sancho also became the first Englishman to reach at least 10 assists for three consecutive seasons in Europe's top-five leagues since David Beckham, who achieved the feat between 1997-98 and 2000-01 for Alex Ferguson's United.

Jack Grealish has completed his record transfer to Premier League champions Manchester City in a deal worth a reported £100million.

England international Grealish has spent his entire career at Aston Villa and has been captain of the club since 2019.

The 25-year-old played a pivotal role in helping Villa retain their top-flight status at the end of the 2019-20 season, after which he was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

He instead signed a new long-term contract but, after scoring six league goals and adding a further 10 assists across 26 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign, Grealish has now made the move north to Manchester.

Pep Guardiola's City have smashed the previous British transfer record – set by United's acquisition of Paul Pogba in August 2016 – to get the playmaker, who created 81 chances in the league last term.

Grealish has signed a six-year deal with City and said: "I am incredibly happy to have joined Manchester City.

"City are the best team in the country with a manager considered to be the best in the world – it's a dream come true to be part of this club.

"Over the past 10 seasons, they have won major trophies consistently. Pep coming here has taken them to the next level and the football this team plays is the most exciting in Europe.

"To play for Pep and learn from him is going to be special and it's something any top footballer would want.

"The facilities are amazing, and I honestly can't wait to get started, meet everyone and get playing."

His departure leaves a huge void at Villa, though they have been spending big this close season, bringing in Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings in lucrative moves.

Grealish is City's first major signing of the window, with the champions also strongly linked with signing Harry Kane from Tottenham.

England captain Kane failed to report back for pre-season training with Spurs as planned, following an extended break after Euro 2020.

The 28-year-old, who topped the Premier League scoring and assist charts last term, has outlined his intention to leave Tottenham and was reportedly the subject of a £100m offer from City earlier in the window.

Jack Grealish's mooted move to Manchester City appears set to imminently go through.

City manager Pep Guardiola has long admired the 25-year-old England midfielder.

English champions City have also been linked with Harry Kane as they chase an elusive Champions League crown.

TOP STORY - GREALISH BOOKED IN FOR MAN CITY MEDICAL

Aston Villa's Grealish is on the cusp of completing his £100million transfer to join Manchester City, according to the Birmingham Mail.

The report claims Grealish was due to arrive in Manchester on Wednesday, with a medical booked in.

Grealish returned from a holiday after Euro 2020 this week and was spotted at Villa training on Wednesday but has since reportedly headed north.

ROUND-UP

- Sky Sports claims Aston Villa are lining up a move for Norwich City midfielder Todd Cantwell as they prepare for Grealish to depart.

- Tottenham are plotting moves for PSV's Noni Madueke and Denmark's Euro 2020 star Mikkel Damsgaard according to the Evening Standard, as they plan their windfall from Harry Kane's potential sale to Manchester City.

- Fresh from Danny Ings leaving for Villa, Southampton are closing in on Blackburn forward Adam Armstrong, reports Football League World.

- The Sun claims Norwich City are looking to launch a £15m bid for Blackburn's Armstrong too. Irish prospect Adam Idah could be included in a player-plus-cash deal.

- Atalanta are set to hold talks with Chelsea for a move for striker Tammy Abraham according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

Aston Villa have signed forward Danny Ings from Southampton for an undisclosed fee, the club announced on Wednesday.

Ings signed a three-year deal after completing his shock transfer, with Villa moving swiftly to bring in attacking reinforcements ahead of captain Jack Grealish's apparently imminent departure.

Grealish is reportedly set to join Manchester City for £100million, but Ashley Young, Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and now Ings have all joined Villa in this window.

Ings reportedly cost Villa £30m, having decided not to renew his Southampton contract, which expires next year.

The 29-year-old netted 12 times for Saints in 29 Premier League appearances last term and added a sole international goal for England.

Upon confirming Ings' signature, head coach Dean Smith told Villa's official website: "Danny is an outstanding Premier League footballer who has scored goals wherever he has played.

"He is also a top professional with a great character who will be a leader in our squad and a role model for our rapidly developing young academy players who are now in and around the first team. I am delighted to welcome Danny to our great club."

The England forward previously endured a frustrating spell at Liverpool between 2015 and 2019, having impressed at Burnley to earn the move to Anfield.

Ings found the back of the net three times in 14 Premier League games for the Reds, with injuries plaguing his time on Merseyside before he proved his quality with 41 goals in 91 top-flight appearances at Southampton.

Only Matt Le Tissier (100), James Beattie (68) and Marian Pahars (42) have scored more Premier League goals for Southampton.

Although Villa are set to miss Grealish, who recorded six goals, 10 assists and 81 chances created in 26 Premier League outings last year, their aggressive approach in the transfer market appears to be paying off.

Smith's side reportedly have an interest in Ings' former Saints and England team-mate James Ward-Prowse and Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe, who was previously on loan with Villa in the Championship.

Aston Villa have confirmed the signing of Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen for a reported £30million fee.

The Premier League club announced at the end of July that an agreement was in place with Leverkusen, with the player now completing his medical and agreeing personal terms on a contract that runs through to 2025.

A Jamaica international, Bailey scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists for the Bundesliga side across 40 appearances in all competitions last term.

The 23-year-old becomes the second big-money signing for Villa ahead of the 2021-22 season, following on from the arrival of Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City. Ashley Young has also re-joined the club on a free transfer.

"Leon is a hugely exciting young striker with great pace and creativity," Villa boss Dean Smith said of Bailey, who scored 39 goals for Leverkusen after joining from Genk in January 2017.   

"He has enjoyed a successful career at Leverkusen and we are now looking forward to watching him show his skills and talents for Aston Villa in the Premier League."

It remains to be seen if Smith will have Jack Grealish as part of his first-team squad once the transfer window closes, however, as Villa’s captain has been heavily linked with a move to champions Manchester City.

Villa have a pre-season friendly against Sevilla on Saturday before opening the new season with a trip to promoted Watford on August 14.

 

Jack Grealish has been holidaying following Euro 2020, but it is now decision time on his club future.

Speculation has mounted over the past few days about a potential move to Manchester City.

City manager Pep Guardiola is a long-term admirer of Grealish, and a big-money bid has apparently been sanctioned by chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak.

TOP STORY - GREALISH SET FOR MONDAY TALKS WITH VILLA

Grealish has returned from his off-season holiday and will hold showdown talks with Aston Villa on Monday as a move to City looms, reports The Mirror.

Grealish has been linked with a £100million move to the English champions and is expected to inform Villa of his intention to leave.

Villa have reportedly offered Grealish a bumper new deal worth £200,000-a-week.

 

ROUND-UP

Tottenham have turned their attention to Wolves winger Adama Traore, according to the Daily Mail. Wolves reportedly want £45m for the Spain international, who would be re-acquainted with manager Nuno Espirito Santo. Goal claims Leeds United are also interested in Traore.

Atletico Madrid are preparing for Kieran Trippier to exit the club as links with Manchester United intensify, with the Spanish champions lining up a move for Roma's Alessandro Florenzi, claims AS.

Atletico are also pursuing Inter's Lautaro Martinez and have moved ahead of Arsenal in the race to sign the Argentina international, according to Tuttosport.

- Borussia Dortmund's Denmark international Thomas Delaney is being pursued SouthamptonNorwich City and Crystal Palace, reports Ruhr Nachrichten.

- ABC claims Real Madrid will offer forward Karim Benzema a new one-year contract extension.

Manchester City still hope to sign Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane in the coming days.

The Premier League champions appear likely to add his international team-mate first, with Jack Grealish reportedly close to a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Aston Villa have tabled a contract to keep their star man, but City are prepared to spend big to win his signature.

 

TOP STORY - CITY CLOSE ON GREALISH DEAL

Manchester City are set to complete a £100million move for Jack Grealish in the next few days, according to multiple reports

The Mail says the 25-year-old England international will earn more than £200,000 a week upon joining Pep Guardiola's side. 

Though City are expected to cut ties with some veteran players, adding Grealish will have no impact on their longstanding pursuit of Harry Kane, the Sun reports.

 

ROUND-UP

- Saul Niguez is weighing up a move to the Premier League, with the Mirror reporting Manchester United and Liverpool are possibilities for the Atletico Madrid midfielder in a £35-£40m deal. 

- Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are possibilities for Bernardo Silva if he leaves City in the coming weeks, reports the Mail. 

- Atalanta centre-back Cristian Romero wants to join Tottenham but the clubs are having difficulty reaching an agreement, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Brazilian striker Kaio Jorge is set for a €3m (£2.5m) permanent move to Juventus from Santos and is expected to sign through to 2026, reports Romano. 

- Arsenal and Everton have shown interest in Schalke's Matthew Hoppe after the USA international's strong Gold Cup performance, reports US journalist Grant Wahl.

- Talks between Wolves and Adama Traore have broken down and Leeds could swoop for the winger, reports Goal. 

- Brighton are interested in Benfica striker and Urugay international Darwin Nunez, reports the Mail. 

Aston Villa have confirmed an agreement has been reached with Bayer Leverkusen for the transfer of Leon Bailey.

Villa are at the centre of one of the transfer window's biggest stories, with captain Jack Grealish reportedly the subject of a £100million bid from Premier League champions Manchester City.

However, while it remains to be seen where Grealish – who is rumoured to have been offered a new contract by Villa – will play in 2021-22, Dean Smith is set to bolster his attack with the addition of Bailey.

A Jamaica international, Bailey scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists for Bundesliga side Leverkusen across 40 appearances in all competitions last term.

Versatile and with a wicked turn of pace, the 23-year-old, who joined Leverkusen from Belgian side Genk in 2017, will sign for Villa subject to completing a medical and finalising personal terms, according to a statement on the club's official website.

No fee has been confirmed, though reports suggested Leverkusen were looking to recoup at least £30m for Bailey.

Once the deal is complete, Bailey will become Villa's third major signing of the transfer window, after the additions of Emiliano Buendia and Ashley Young, for £33m and on a free transfer respectively.

Buendia's former Norwich City team-mate Tom Cantwell is also being heavily linked as Villa look to push for Europe with or without their talisman Grealish.

 

COULD BAILEY REPLACE GREALISH?

Though not exactly similar in style, both Grealish and Bailey occupy a position in the front line.

While Bailey has more pace to stretch defences, Grealish prefers to get on the ball in between the lines. However, Bailey certainly has the ability to link up with his fellow attackers.

Bailey played 13 games more than Grealish last season, with the latter tallying up seven goals and 10 assists, creating a total of 85 chances.

In contrast, Bailey crafted 63 goalscoring opportunities, also creating four fewer "big chances".

But Bailey had more shots (84 compared to 53), and registered an improved shot conversion rate of 17.86 per cent in contrast to Grealish's 13.21 per cent.

While not a traditional winger, Bailey played a pass into the box (including crosses) 224 times, 63 times more than Grealish, at an average of 7.04 per 90 minutes.

He also attempted more dribbles (5.38) per 90 minutes than Grealish (4.59), though the England international boasted a better completion rate of 2.73 per 90 – Bailey managing 2.64 successful dribbles every 90 minutes.

Should Grealish leave, Villa will at least have Buendia to help Bailey fill the creative void, while the potential addition of Cantwell would add a further runner from midfield to support Ollie Watkins.

Grealish may well still stay put, however, and if so, Smith will know European qualification has to be the aim following an 11th-place finish last season.

Manuel Locatelli won plenty of admirers for his displays at Euro 2020.

Locatelli played a key role in Italy's tournament triumph, including two goals against Switzerland.

The former Milan midfielder has established himself with Sassuolo over the past two seasons in Serie A and is now on the radar of several leading European clubs.

 

TOP STORY - LIVERPOOL HIJACK LOCATELLI PURSUIT

Liverpool have joined Juventus and Arsenal in the race to sign Italy international Manuel Locatelli , reports 90min.

The Reds are close to making their opening bid for the Sassuolo midfielder who helped Italy win Euro 2020.

Liverpool are looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum who has left for Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa have countered Manchester City's £100million bid on Friday for midfielder Jack Grealish with a club-record contact offer, reports The Daily Star. The deal is believed to be worth £200,000 per week.

- Real Madrid are set to act fast on replacing Manchester United-bound Raphael Varane, with a €60m move for Villarreal defender Pau Torres, according to El Gol Digital.

- Granit Xhaka may stay at Arsenal despite strong links with a transfer to Roma, with the Gunners strongly considering a new contract offer for the Swiss midfielder, reports The Athletic.

- Hector Bellerin is close to exiting Arsenal, with his agent flying to London for talks with the Gunners about a move to Inter, claims Calciomercato. Inter are looking to replace Achraf Hakimi who left for Paris Saint-Germain.

- Sport1 claims that Liverpool have been unable to meet Borussia Moenchengladbach's €40m (£34m) asking price for midfielder Florian Neuhaus but remain interested.

Jack Grealish could soon be a Manchester City player.

The Premier League champions have long been linked with the Aston Villa captain who, along with Tottenham talisman Harry Kane, reportedly represents City's top target as Pep Guardiola looks to add further creativity to an attacking unit which is already the envy of European football.

On Friday, reports emerged that City had lodged a £100million bid for the 25-year-old, who helped England reach the final of Euro 2020 earlier this month.

City and Villa both refused to comment on the rumours. 

As speculation continues, Stats Perform has assessed what Grealish could bring to City, should the deal – which would be a Premier League record – go through.

 

THE NUMBERS

Grealish played 26 times in the league last season, missing 12 games towards the end of the campaign due to a shin injury.

He scored six times, adding 10 assists. His 70 chances created from open play was 26 more than any other Villa player, and only seven shy of Bruno Fernandes' league-leading 77.

When counting chances created in total, including from set plays, Grealish (81) ranked third in the league, behind Mason Mount (87) and Fernandes (95), though they played 10 and 11 games more than the Villa captain respectively.

Grealish outscored his expected goals tally of 4.65, while only Harry Kane (14), Kevin De Bruyne (12) and Fernandes (12) supplied more assists.

The playmaker, who often played on the left flank for Villa, attempted 110 dribbles, tallying up a success rate of 59.09 per cent, the seventh-best out of Premier League players to attempt 100 or more dribbles.

 

HOW HE COULD FIT IN

Capable of playing centrally or wide, Grealish will add another high-quality, versatile option to Guardiola's already packed squad. His 81 chances created leads the way out of City and Villa players from last term, with De Bruyne (80) a close second.

No Villa or City player attempted or completed more dribbles than Grealish, whose ability to carry the ball into dangerous positions and then release a timely pass will surely be a big draw for Guardiola, though he will want sharp, snappy passing to be brought into the midfielder's game.

Based on City's current options, Grealish would likely be competing with De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez – though several of those players have been linked with moves away – for a place in the team, either as a central midfielder or a wide attacker in the champions' preferred 4-3-3 system.

Of those players, only De Bruyne played more passes, including crosses, into the penalty area – the Belgium star doing so on 239 occasions – than Grealish. However, he was some 90 ahead, while playing one game less.

Grealish's shot count of 50 ranked him fifth out of those seven players, with his shot conversion rate of 12 per cent also the fifth-best.

De Bruyne (7.4 per cent from 80) and Silva (7.14 per cent from 28) had a lower conversion percentage, though logic would suggest Grealish will have more opportunities to shoot in a City team that managed 599 attempts last season, 79 more than Villa's total.

 

HOW WOULD VILLA MANAGE?

Should Villa collect £100m, they would be well placed to reinvest, but there is no doubt Grealish would be a huge miss for Dean Smith's team.

Villa have gone some way to mitigating the damage a potential transfer would cause, with Emiliano Buendia – a creative fulcrum for Norwich City last season – arriving earlier in the transfer window.

Ashley Young has made a return to Villa Park on a free transfer from Serie A champions Inter, while Villa also made several bids for Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe before the 20-year-old signed a new deal with the Gunners.

Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen's flying winger, has also been linked. The Jamaica international scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists in 40 appearances last season, and his arrival would certainly soften the blow somewhat, though there is a chance he may need time to adapt from the Bundesliga.

Bailey created 63 chances in total, with 11 of these classed as "big chances" – Grealish, by comparison, created 14 big opportunities in league football in 2020-21.

While Villa would certainly have to adapt, the options they could pursue with £100m to spend would present an opportunity for significant upgrades elsewhere in the squad as Smith looks to push for European qualification.

City, meanwhile, would be bringing in one of English football's best talents, with Grealish having the opportunity to head into his prime years at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

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