The Matt Grimes contract situation is a tricky one for Swansea City.
There may be a buzz around the Swansea.com Stadium during this international break after seeing the team click into gear, and rightfully so, but a key cog in their machine could leave for nothing at the end of the campaign and that could prove to be harmful in such a delicate transition period.
Not only is the central midfielder one of their best assets on the field as a consistent performer, but he’s also a leader off it and his role behind the scenes probably goes under the radar as the Swans’ club captain under a reasonably young and inexperienced manager in Russell Martin.
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He may not have recorded a single goal or assist during this campaign, but that doesn’t tell the full story.
Alongside Flynn Downes, who has had to adapt back to Championship again after spending time in the third tier with Ipswich Town before being demoted to the club’s Under-23s in pre-season, the 26-year-old has been vital in helping his midfield partner to settle in and that shouldn’t go unmentioned.
People may see the likes of Jay Fulton and Korey Smith as other options in the middle of the park and question whether Grimes leaving the club would have such a major impact, but interest from other clubs in the summer just goes to show how much quality he has.
The Swans’ skipper was the subject of interest from Premier League sides Watford and Brighton and Hove Albion, alongside second-tier outfit Fulham. However, it was only the latter that made a formal approach for him, having two separate bids rejected in the previous window with Swansea desperate to keep him.
After failing in their pursuit of Grimes, they went ahead and signed Nathaniel Chalobah on a permanent deal in a deadline day move, making another move for the former in January unlikely with no guarantees that Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa won’t be returning to Craven Cottage in the summer.
This will open the door for the likes of Watford and Brighton to swoop in, but after failing to make a move amid intense interest from Marco Silva’s men in the summer, it’s not looking likely that the top-flight duo will be making a big effort to sign him either when the next calendar year arrives.
And this is something that officials in South Wales need to take advantage of as they enter negotiations with their captain, utilising this potential lack of current interest and manager Martin’s long-term project to persuade him to sign fresh terms.
They have plenty of money and financial fair play leeway to tie up this deal after generating millions in revenue from high-profile sales in recent years – and this is why they need to hold firm and reject offers from elsewhere unless an interested side is prepared to pay an obscene amount of money for his services.
Even if January comes and goes without a solution to his contract situation, keeping him is worthwhile considering the cut-price deals teams will try and negotiate with the Swans to take him off their hands.
Quite frankly, he’s worth more than the money interested clubs will be willing to pay in the winter window, and losing him mid-season would be a huge blow to a side that would need to appoint a new captain and look to a new leader in a short space of time.
At least next summer would give the club more time to find the right replacement for him, both in terms of a central midfielder and a leader.
Mick McCarthy’s plight at arch-rivals Cardiff shows how quickly things can go downhill, so minimising the chance of that same scenario happening at Swansea by retaining their captain has to be worth it.