Premier League champions Manchester City secured the services of Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in a record-breaking deal worth £100 million, which to date is the most expensive Premier League signing. Grealish joins City on a six-year contract, which is worth more than £200,000 a week. Manchester City’s purchase of Grealish breaks the record signing their neighbors, Manchester United, did in 2016 when they signed Paul Pogba for £89.3 million. In becoming the first British signing worth £100 million, Grealish joins an elite club of six players who have had their transfers worth more than £100 million. The six now are Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho, João Félix, and the Englishman himself now.
Grealish will be leaving his boyhood club Aston Villa, where he made his senior debut in 2014. He had 213 appearances and scored 32 goals, along with captaining the side. On leaving the club where he had spent 19 years, Grealish sent out an emotional message to the fans and club, which read, “I’ve been at Aston Villa for 19 years and I’ve been a fan my whole life. I’ve come through the ranks and captained the club back to the top tier of English football. It’s impossible to put my feelings into words, but I’ll try. When I first came to Villa I had my own personal dreams and ambitions like getting into the first team, scoring my first goal and scoring the winner in a derby. It wasn’t until we got relegated that I felt a greater sense of purpose. Every time I put on the Villa shirt, I played with my heart on my sleeve. Being given the armband was both a privilege and an honour for me and my family and I’ve loved every minute of it. I want to thank the manager and my teammates, I’ll never forget everything we achieved together… and to the fans who supported me through everything, I can’t thank you enough. To all my coaches and all the people who work at the club behind the scenes who have done so much for me over the years — thank you. 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. The club are in great hands, the manager, the lads, the news signings coming in — it’s an exciting time to be a Villa fan. I’ll see you all again soon. Until next time.”
As per reports, Aston Villa had put in an improved deal, compared to that of Grealish’s last contract at Villa, in hopes of keeping their captain at Villa Park. However, the opportunity to play with some of the best in the world, under one of the great managers and the chance of significant silverware with assured Champions League football lead Grealish make the much-anticipated move. Apart from having won three domestic titles in the last four seasons, Grealish also gets a chance to play in City’s coveted midfield that comprises Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Riyadh Mahrez, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gündogan, Bernardo Silva, and Ferran Torres. If that wasn’t enough, Grealish also gets a chance to work with Pep Guardiola, who has spoken highly of the Englishman, referring to him as an ‘exceptional player.’ Grealish himself looks forward to playing alongside De Bruyne, whom he has publicly acknowledged as the best in the world after Messi and Ronaldo. Grealish has spoken about how he had worked with his former Aston Villa manager post the 2019/20 season. He managed only six assists, where they studied De Bruyne, and Belgium did influence as Grealish ended up with 12 assists in the following season.
Grealish, who has been a graduate of the Villa academy since 2001, spent his younger days at the Villa Park academy before being loaned out to Notts County in 2013. After a season out on loan, Grealish returned to Villa, making his Premier League debut in May 2014, against his current employers. Grealish signed a new contract with Villa in 2014 that saw him stay at the club till 2018.
After a tough 2016 season that saw Villa relegated to the Championship, Grealish stayed with Villa despite other clubs’ interests, including Leeds United. After three seasons in the Championship, Grealish captained Villa to a club-record ten wins in a row to help promote Aston Villa back into the Premier League for the 2019/20 season. Grealish’s final two seasons at Villa Park were nothing less than spectacular, with him amassing 19 assists and 14 goals over the two seasons. It should be taken into account that he missed out a substantial part to injury.
His domestic form also impressed and caught the eyes of the national selectors, who handed Grealish his first Three Lions cap in September 2020 in a friendly against Denmark. Grealish’s impressive performances earned him a place in England’s Euro 2020 squad. He didn’t disappoint, being instrumental in setting up both goals in England’s 2-0 victory over Denmark and playing a crucial role in helping England reach the finals.
Manchester City’s No. 10
With Manchester City club legend Sergio Aguero leaving at the end of last season, his number 10 shirt has gone to Grealish. Grealish shouldn’t have a tough time settling in with the team as he has multiple national teammates at City. Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, and John Stones, all of whom represented England at the Euros earlier this year, will make it easier for Grealish to feel at home at City.
With the likes of De Bruyne, Sterling, Foden, Grealish, Bernardo Silva, and Mahrez at his disposal, although Guardiola might be licking his lips at the prospect of having some of the best in the world in his team. It also raises the question as to where Guardiola might play his new signing. Grealish, who operated centrally and from the left at Villa, might not have the left flank to himself as Sterling and Foden are already vying for the spot, and Ferran Torres is in the waiting. Centrally though, Grealish might fit in, with Guardiola playing two central midfielders, most likely to be De Bruyne and Grealish himself. Grealish knows the pressure will be on him right from the start. As if the money wasn’t enough, having players like Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gündogan waiting in the wings will keep City’s new no.10 on his toes. With Harry Kane’s arrival also likely, the prospect of having Sterling, De Bruyne, Grealish, and Kane play together is something every football fan will look forward to, although the opposition defenses might not!
Manchester City have already struck gold with their first summer signing. With the likelihood of England’s captain coming soon, City is gearing up to mount a serious domestic and European challenge. Even though the Covid pandemic situation, City have already raised £109.5 million and will look to further add to it by selling a few other players to maintain financial stability. On the other hand, Aston Villa have boosted their attack by signing Danny Ings from Southampton and Bayern Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey, in hopes to replace the void left by their former captain.