Aston Villa identify Grealish replacement - and it's not Bailey or Buendia

Martin Macdonald
Who is Todd Cantwell? The Norwich star wanted by Tottenham and Leeds

Aston Villa will apparently swoop for Norwich City winger Todd Cantwell when Jack Grealish completes his expected £100 million transfer to Manchester City.

Grealish has long been a target of both Man City and Manchester United, but with the latter signing Jadon Sancho that allowed the Premier League champions a free run at the maverick attacking midfielders, who will undertake a medical on Wednesday or Thursday.

The Villa captain has developed into one of the most creative and exciting players in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons and in 2020/21 recorded the third-highest tally of assists in the top-flight despite missing three months of action.

His stock has rose during the Euros, too, as he came off the bench to play a role in both goals as England defeated Germany in the first knockout stage, while he featured in the semi-final and final also.

While Grealish was at the European Championship, Villa were busy in the transfer market, signing Norwich star Emiliano Buendia for £30m.

The Argentine was the best player in the English Championship last season, scoring 15 goals and recording 15 assists in 39 starts in the second tier.

Aston Villa beat Arsenal to his signature - a display of intent in their transfer market this summer.

They have since signed Leon Bailey from Leverkusen who is viewed by many as a direct replacement for Grealish.

However, according to Sky Sports, Dean Smith wants further reinforcements should Grealish leave, and will reportedly ask to sign another Norwich player in Cantwell.

How good is Todd Cantwell?

Cantwell’s burgeoning reputation only increased during his debut season in the Premier League when Norwich gained promotion ahead of the 2019/20 season.

Though his numbers were solid if not spectacular, his return of six goals and two assists in 30 appearances was decent for a first timer in the top flight – even if his assist record could be doing with a boost.

What is intriguing about Cantwell is that you almost have to watch him to determine how good he is, as it is his grace in possession, command of the ball and dribbling ability which is the most impressive aspects of his game.

He exudes confidence now that he is 23, and has an Adam Lallana-esque way of slowing the game down to match his desired tempo before eventually bursting into life. There are definite similarities in the way the pair move, even if they play different roles for their respective clubs.

“At one point, two of them had Todd up against the line and you could see them thinking, ‘Gotcha!’” Cantwell’s former youth coach Gary Cockaday told The Athletic 

“Todd looked at one of them in the eye, put his toe under the ball, flicked it back over his head, turned and he was gone. All without looking at the ball.

“He did things every week that were just special. It was God-given. No one taught it. I always believed if you had someone like that, don’t change them or make them conform.”

Thought quite slight, Cantwell has worked on his aggression and physique more over the past year back down in the Championship and can now be expected to mix things up with rough and ready defenders.