Manchester United do have an ace up their sleeve when it comes to negotiating a move for Jack Grealish this summer.
Whether manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer approves is another matter.
Grealish’s asking price stands at £80 million currently, The Times reports. Far too high, and United have to either walk away or try and bring this down.
The way to negotiate a swift reduction in Aston Villa’s asking price is to offer up Axel Tuanzebe into the deal, either on loan or permanently. This may be a price not worth paying.
Tuanzebe impressed at Villa
Tuanzebe spent 18 months on loan at Aston Villa and played a key role in helping them win promotion to the Premier League.
He starred under Dean Smith in 2018/19 alongside Grealish, and featured in their play-off final victory against Fulham.
The Express and Star reported last July that Villa were hoping to re-sign Tuanzebe on loan for another year, before these plans were dismissed by Solskjaer, who made the defender a key part of his plans.
However, Tuanzebe’s season did not go to plan, with three separate injuries restricting him to just 10 appearances, only two of which were Premier League starts.
Currently ruled out until September, Tuanzebe finds himself at risk of falling behind a possible new signing at centre-back, or even getting leapfrogged by young defender Teden Mengi, who is expected to make his debut in the Europa League this week.
Is a loan what he needs?
Solskjaer is a big believer in Tuanzebe and made this clear last summer. If not for injuries, his appearance count of just 10, would be closer to 30 by now. He has lost the most important season of his career.
So now Tuanzebe needs to kickstart his career. There is a case that going out on loan could benefit him as he will play more regularly.
Aston Villa would be the top destination for him to go and play Premier League games, at a club where he is already admired by the fans, and knows the manager and coaching staff.
Solskjaer may not sign off on this, dependent on how strongly he feels about the 22-year-old. Having made him captain in the League Cup last year, the club’s youngest since Norman Whiteside, he showed his faith in the defender.
A loan deal will only wipe so much off Grealish’s asking price, compared to a permanent move.
A permanent sale of Tuanzebe to Villa could take £20-30 million off the asking price for Grealish.
In practical terms you could argue that letting go of the club’s fourth or fifth choice centre-back may be worth it, in a trade to sign a player who would become the club’s second choice attacking midfielder behind Bruno Fernandes.
Whether Solskjaer sees it that way is another matter, having been denied a full season look at what Tuanzebe is really capable of, the United manager will not want to quit on him now.
His name will come up
It is likely Tuanzebe’s name will come up in discussions for Grealish between Villa and United.
Villa would be foolish not to enquire over United’s plans for Tuanzebe, from their perspective, to see if we are willing to budge.
United may choose to look elsewhere than Grealish. Conversations are probably already happening to that effect, after Villa stayed in the Premier League and secured extra bargaining power in the process over their star player.
But if the plan is to circle back to this deal once the drawn out chase for Sancho is over, then the option of making a player plus cash deal to get the deal done is one option to consider, even if it is just a loan deal for one season.
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