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Manchester City have confirmed the £100m British record signing of Jack Grealish from Aston Villa. In a powerful statement that they intend to build on the three Premier League titles in four seasons under Pep Guardiola, City have secured Grealish to a six-year contract, worth more than £200,000 a week.
The fee for Grealish, whom Guardiola has previously described as an “exceptional player”, eclipses the £89.3m that Manchester United paid Juventus for Paul Pogba in 2016 and City are keen to raise the bar even further with a successful move for Harry Kane. They have seen an offer worth £100m turned down by Tottenham for the England captain but are expected to return with a higher bid. Spurs are refusing to sell Kane, who has failed to come back for pre-season training – he was due to report on Monday after a three-week post Euro 2020 break – for less than £150m.
Grealish, who has the No 10 shirt vacated by Sergio Agüero, flew to Manchester on Wednesday night and took his medical on Thursday after City agreed to meet the £100m clause in his Villa contract that he signed last September. Villa had tried to convince their captain and talisman to stay, offering him another new deal on improved terms, but the opportunity to work with Guardiola and challenge for the game’s top prizes proved impossible to resist.
Villa have spent heavily in an attempt to soften the blow of Grealish’s departure, adding Emiliano Buendía, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings for a combined £85mwith the promise of further additions. Ashley Young has also returned on a free transfer.
“I am incredibly happy to have joined Manchester City,” Grealish said. “City are the best team in the country with a manager considered to be the best in the world – it’s a dream come true to be part of this club.
“Over the past 10 seasons they have won major trophies consistently. Pep coming here has taken them to the next level and the football this team plays is the most exciting in Europe. To play for Pep and learn from him is going to be special and it’s something any top footballer would want.
“It was a difficult few months because I have been an Aston Villa fan for my whole life but, when I spoke to the manager here and you see what type of players they have got here … in the end it was something I could not say no to.” Grealish said that the “main reason” he signed was the opportunity to win trophies but he added that playing alongside Kevin De Bruyne was another big factor. “It is going to be a dream come true to play alongside him. I have always said that apart from Ronaldo and Messi he is the best in the world.
“In the season before [last] I got six assists and I sat down with the manager at Villa and I was watching clips of Kevin De Bruyne. I said that this is what I want to do, I want my end ball to be like his and that is something I practised on. Then, last season I ended up getting 10 assists in 25 or 26 games which is a good return.”
Grealish was not even an England international this time last year but his stunning rise was emphasised during Euro 2020 when he was one of the pin-up boys of the national team, supporters having been seduced by his mercurial talent, the smoothness of his touch and his explosive bursts – together with his self-assurance.
It remains clear that Gareth Southgate, the England manager, is unsure whether he can trust him defensively. Southgate substituted Grealish in the semi-final win over Denmark as he sought to close out the result, having brought him off the bench, and, with pragmatism and balance the watchwords, he started him only once at the finals – in the last group tie against the Czech Republic, when qualification was already assured. It should be said that Grealish has applied himself and adapted his game to win a place in Southgate’s thoughts; he earned the first of his 12 caps against Denmark last September.
How Grealish develops under Guardiola will be fascinating to see, as will his ability to handle the competition at City. The 25-year-old works best in a roving role off the left flank and he can also play as a No 10. “I think I can play as a No 8, if the manager plays a 10, either wing or even as a false nine,” Grealish said.
Guardiola’s options in attacking midfield and on the wings include De Bruyne, Ilkay Gündogan, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Ferran Torres and Phil Foden, who Grealish described as being “like my little brother”.
Grealish, who knows Sterling and Foden from the England squad, along with John Stones and Kyle Walker, said: “That helps massively. We speak when we are away with England about our own clubs and Stonesy, Raz, Phil and Walks have had nothing but good things to say whenever it’s been mentioned. I have played against City a lot and I’ve not really been successful. I’ve had a few pumpings by them so it will be nice to be playing with them rather than against them.”
A personal message was sent to Villa fans from the departing Grealish, he said: “I’ve come up through the ranks and captained my club back to the top tier of English football. It’s impossible to put my feelings into words, but I’ll try,” he said in a post on his official Twitter account.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
City’s previous record outlay was the £61m that they spent to get Rúben Dias from Benfica last summer. They have raised £109.5m through sales and sell-on clauses across three windows since the pandemic hit, with Leroy Sané’s £55m move to Bayern Munich in July of last year the headline departure. They hope to raise a further £55m this month by offloading Pedro Porro, Yangel Herrera, Luka Ilic and Morgan Rogers.