Dean Smith has admitted Aston Villa need to continue progressing if they are to stand any chance of keeping Jack Grealish at the club.
The Villa captain was heavily linked with a move to Man Utd during the summer, while recent reports suggest Man City are considering a bid in the future.
Grealish, 25, only penned a new five-year contract in September, and his impressive form had helped his boyhood club to top the table earlier this season.
But Smith is aware Villa must move forward in an upward trajectory or face losing their talisman to a bigger club.
“I’ve built up a very good relationship over my two years at Aston Villa with Jack and we know each other inside and out,” Smith told Stadium Astro.
“He wanted to progress and wanted progress as a footballer first and foremost at Villa.
“It’s his team, he grew up as an Aston Villa fan, he’s been here a long time and I’ve always had that feeling that he didn’t want to leave.
“He wanted to continue the journey of being progressive with the football club.”
Grealish’s dazzling performances for England have drawn further focus on the midfielder, particularly as recent club results have seen Villa slip back into the bottom half.
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Admiring glances from the likes of Man City star Kevin De Bruyne have further fuelled the speculation Grealish could be on his way sooner rather than later, and Smith is under no illusions about his skipper’s aims.
“If we don’t keep progressing and become a club that’s challenging in Europe then we probably won’t meet Jack’s ambitions and there will be a time where Jack looks elsewhere then,” he added.
“At the moment, he can see the progression at the football club and he wants to be a part of that.”