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.