Jack Grealish says the season turned out perfectly after captaining Aston Villa to a Championship play-off final win less than a year after he came close to leaving the club.
Villa beat Derby 2-1 at Wembley on Monday to seal their return to the Premier League, ending their three-year absence from the top-flight and putting to rest their heartbreak from a year ago, when they fell to Fulham at the same stage.
Grealish, 23, has been a key player for the club he joined at the age of six, scoring six goals and setting up another seven in 34 league games – all career bests.
The campaign could have gone in a different direction for Grealish and Villa as the England Under-21 international flirted with a move to the Premier League to join Tottenham, though he remained and signed a new deal with the club.
It appeared to set up for disappointment, however, as Villa struggled early in the season, leading to manager Steve Bruce being sacked in October.
Yet they bounced back under new boss Dean Smith, who made Grealish captain after his return from injury in March.
Grealish's comeback coincided with Villa's best form as they clawed their way into the playoffs after a 10-game winning run which included a narrow win over fierce rivals Birmingham City.
And the player was elated to guide his team to the top division so soon after he considered moving away.
"I'm speechless, I really am. I can't even explain to you how happy I am. It means the world, we all know where this club belongs," he told Sky Sports.
"I thought I was going, 10 months later I'm here now and I've led my boyhood club back to the Premier League as captain and scored against the Blues twice - perfect season."
Despite helping the club stake their place in the Premier League next season, Grealish continues to be linked with a move away from Villa Park, with Tottenham reportedly still interested.
But he remains contracted to the club until 2023 and Smith said he will cost "a hell of a lot" for any club that wants to snap him up this summer.