Emi Martinez admits Aston Villa's record-breaking £100 million ($127m) sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City has impacted the club's performances this season as the Villans were forced to part with “the best we had”.
The home-grown captain bid farewell to his West Midlands roots in the summer of 2021 when becoming the most expensive player in British football.
His absence was always going to be felt at Villa Park, despite much of the fee he generated being reinvested on new recruits, and Martinez admits his side have struggled for consistency after losing a key creative influence and on-field leader.
- 'I don't think it's sunk in that I'm a Liverpool player' - Reds star Missy Bo Kearns is living the dream
- Fantasy Premier League 2022-23: Tips, best players, rules, prizes & guide to FPL game
- Palmer, Kayky, Delap and the Man City wonderkids who could follow in Foden's footsteps
- 'Is football coming home?' Why England's Lionesses can win the UEFA Women's Euros
How much have Aston Villa missed Grealish?
After helping Villa secure promotion back into the Premier League in 2019, Grealish registered 17 goals and 18 assists across two seasons.
With those qualities now aiding the cause of reigning English champions, Martinez said: “He was the best player we had. He was outstanding last season but we understood he needed to make that step. The signings we made were really positive but they needed time to adapt.
“You can see now at the end of the season the inconsistency as well because we have a new manager, a new philosophy. Next season, we will know what to do.
“It has been difficult inside (the club) but we have been very positive and we have double figures in clean sheets now.”
Martinez added: “Obviously there has been investment at the club and everyone expected us to be top eight or top seven but it is difficult when there are so many changes in one season. We have been inconsistent but we have to realise we sold Jack, a home-grown player and the best we had at Villa.
“We have had to rebuild and find new players but they need time to adapt. We changed the manager in mid-season too, with a new philosophy. It isn’t as easy as it looks.”
How have Villa fared without Grealish?
A big-money move to City has not played out entirely as planned for Grealish, as he has just five goals and three assists this season.
Villa meanwhile have toiled at times without him and find themselves languishing closer to a relegation battle than a bid for European qualification.
With six games left, Gerrard’s side sit 15th in the Premier League, eight points clear of the drop zone.