He’s now the most expensive British player in football history, and Jack Grealish clearly can’t wait to get started at Manchester City after completing his £100m transfer from Aston Villa which will reportedly earn him up to £115m over the course of his six-year contract.
For City, this could be a huge gamble. While the have the money in the bank thanks to their Saudi owners, there still needs to be justification for their outgoings, and a £200m-plus transaction simply has to result in success on the field.
But there are rightly some question marks which come with this deal. So is it a great move for City, or have they just committed themselves to a massive overspend?
It’s a great move because…
- Grealish is British, which is a big deal in the post-Brexit world. Players coming from overseas will have to meet a points-based criteria in order for clubs to be given the go-ahead to sign them, while there will be a cap on foreign under-21 arrivals. Bringing in one of the best players in the UK is a wise move under the new circumstances
- Consistency wise, the 25-year-old is potentially an improvement on Raheem Sterling. While Sterling was favoured over Grealish by Gareth Southgate during Euro 2020, his form in 2020-21 left a lot to be desired. In Grealish, Pep Guardiola has a serious alternative to the former Liverpool man, and he brings a slightly different skill set too, which means they could both play together without too many problems.
- Grealish offers tactical flexibility, which is right up Guardiola’s street. He might have played off the left for England this summer, but the new City number 10 often looks much more at home playing in behind a front man in the heart of the pitch. And there’s also every chance that he could make an effective false nine if Pep chooses to use him in the centre with the likes of Sterling, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez to his side and Ilkay Gundogan making runs beyond him from midfield.
- It adds depth to City’s first-choice lineup. No club has 11 regular starters anymore, and the main concern for those at the top of the game more often relates to strengthening spots 12 to 18 in their squad by bringing in players of comparable or better quality to their current stars. Grealish is unlikely to start many more than 25 to 30 games in 2021-22, but that is true of most of City’s better players. If another Champions League final comes around for them, they now have greater quality in depth and new tools to call upon.
It’s a bad move because…
- It’s a hell of a lot of money. They may have more money than God, but they still need to justify what they spend. If Grealish fails to settle, or just turns out to be one of those players who thrive in having a team built around them but struggle under a more consistent spotlight, City could quickly find themselves with a very costly squad player on their hands.
- His shin injury might be the sign of things to come. City have just spent £100m on a player who missed three months at the end of last season with a load-bearing issue which might well bring about further problems in the medium-term future. The Fantasy Premier League furore his absence brought about will be small fry compared to any significant amount of time he might spend on the sidelines on a £360,000 a week deal.
- That huge contract might not go down particularly well with the rest of the City squad. While the reported amount Grealish could earn is a top-end figure depending on bonuses, such a massive outlay could easily result in a long queue of players asking for their salary to be revised to bring them in line with the level Grealish is being paid at.
- His tactical indiscipline could be a big issue. He found game-time hard to come by for England in the summer because Gareth Southgate wasn’t sold on his ability to contribute off the ball as well as on it, and while Guardiola loves his side to play good football he also enjoys nothing more than micro-managing how his teams attack. If Grealish doesn’t find the nature of this style to his taste, his performances could well suffer.