Aston Villa's push to sign Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe is independent of the decision talismanic playmaker Jack Grealish makes on his future, sources have told CBS Sports.
Villa saw a second bid worth over $41.5 million (£30 million) rejected by Arsenal, who are insistent that the 20-year-old is not for sale. Indeed CBS Sports reported earlier this month that there are those at the Emirates Stadium who would not countenance a deal for triple the price of Villa's initial rejected offer of $35 million.
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Instead Arsenal are working to agree new terms with Smith Rowe for his contract. They first raised the prospect of an extension with the youngster following his starring role in a win over Chelsea on December 26, 2020 and negotiations began to accelerate from April onwards. No agreement has been released nor is one imminent though the Gunners are understood to be confident that he will eventually put pen to paper on fresh terms. That may in part be because they are aware of the terms at which the England youth international will sign though they have not yet offered him those.
However Villa are not expected to be dissuaded from chasing Smith Rowe, who they view as a potential partner for their star player rather than a replacement. Manchester City are chasing Grealish's signature with talks expected to accelerate once his involvement in Euro 2020 is over. For their part, Villa have offered their captain a new contract and hope to prove to Grealish that he can fulfil his personal ambitions without having to end a near-20 year association with his boyhood club.
It is in that context that Villa's interest in Smith Rowe should be viewed, with the Arsenal player another creative option that can ease the burden placed on Grealish in the final third. Dean Smith's side also secured the signature of Emiliano Buendia from Norwich earlier this month, swooping in ahead of Arsenal for the Argentine while the Gunners were still trying to secure a loan deal for Martin Odegaard.
Villa are not alone in their admiration for Smith Rowe, whose name was raised by Real Madrid when Arsenal attempted to kickstart talks over bringing Odegaard back after his loan at the Emirates Stadium during the second half of the season. The Norwegian international has since indicated a desire to stay in Spain and fight for his place under new manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Arsenal are exploring alternative options for the number 10 position, among them Leicester City's James Maddison, but are conscious that any signing must be to work alongside Smith Rowe rather than supersede him. The Hale End academy graduate excelled when given an extended run in the first team by Mikel Arteta after Christmas. In the 18 games Arsenal played with the youngster in the starting XI they averaged 2.17 points per game with a goal difference of plus 21. In 20 matches without him they averaged 1.1 points and conceded five more goals than they scored.