'It's a dream come true' – Man City sign £100m Grealish from Villa


Jack Grealish in a Man City shirt
Jack Grealish’s move to Manchester City makes him the ninth-most expensive player in history

Manchester City have signed England midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for a British record £100m.

The 25-year-old joins the Premier League champions on a six-year contract and will wear the number 10 shirt recently vacated by Sergio Aguero.

The fee surpasses the £89m Manchester United paid to re-sign midfielder Paul Pogba from Juventus in 2016.

“City are the best team in the country with a manager considered to be the best in the world,” said Grealish.

“It’s a dream come true to be part of this club.”

The move makes Grealish the ninth most expensive footballer in history.

He could make his debut for Pep Guardiola’s side in Saturday’s Community Shield against Leicester City at Wembley.

A boyhood Villa fan, Grealish joined the club aged six and made 213 appearances in all competitions, scoring 32 goals.

He said: “It was obviously 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 couldn’t say no to.

“Competing for major trophies is something that I wanted to do. It was something I couldn’t turn down.

“Playing in the Champions League was a massive thing for me, I haven’t done that yet. When I was sitting there on a Tuesday or Wednesday night last year it was just what I wanted to do. To be able to do it with this club is going to be a dream.

“I had a long chat with [Pep Guardiola] about positions and stuff like that, all football. It was such a positive chat and shows why I want to play under him.

“The way this team is set up to play suits me down to a tee, the way the manager likes to play suits me.”

City director of football Txiki Begiristain said: “Jack’s development over the past few seasons both for club and country has been plain for everybody to see.

“His natural talent together with his commitment to improve as a player has seen him become one of the most exciting attacking players in world football today.”

Grealish Sterling Foden Mahrez Silva De Bruyne
Games played 26 31 28 27 26 25
Goals 6 10 9 9 2 6
Assists 10 7 5 6 6 12
Chances created 81 39 36 44 27 80
Dribbles completed 65 66 38 45 41 48
Fouls won 110 41 34 30 18 31

In an address to supporters explaining the reasons behind Grealish’s sale, Villa chief executive Christian Purslow revealed there was a £100m release clause in the five-year deal he signed last summer.

“Jack wanted to be certain if at any point a Champions League club came in for him and Aston Villa were not in the competition we would not stand in his way,” said Purslow.

“For that reason, we agreed to incorporate a so-called release clause. We set the value at a level we hope would not be met, but reflected his true value to Villa.”Manchester City said they would be willing to pay £100m to trigger the clause.

“It was a highly emotional moment when Jack finally told me his decision, leaving me in no doubt how hard it had been for him to decide to leave.”

World’s top-five transfer fees

Neymar [Barcelona – Paris St-Germain] £200m in 2017

Kylian Mbappe [Monaco – Paris St-Germain] £166m in 2017

Philippe Coutinho [Liverpool – Barcelona] £142m in 2018

Ousmane Dembele [Borussia Dortmund – Barcelona] total fee of £135m in 2017

Joao Felix [Benfica – Atletico Madrid] £113m in 2019

The rise of Grealish

Jack Grealish on his Villa debut
Jack Grealish made his Aston Villa debut as an 88th-minute substitute against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium in 2014

After progressing through the Villa youth set-up, Grealish went on loan to Notts County, then in League One, in 2013 to gain senior experience.

He made his Villa debut in a 4-0 defeat by City in May 2014 and made 17 Premier League appearances during the 2014-15 season as Villa finished one place above the relegation zone.

During the following season, he scored his first top-flight goal against Leicester City in September 2015 and made 16 league appearances as Villa finished bottom and were relegated to the Championship.

Villa spent three seasons in the Championship before Grealish helped them regain their Premier League status with a play-off final win against Derby County.

He made 36 Premier League appearances during 2019-20 and scored eight goals, including one in the 1-1 draw against West Ham United which secured Villa’s top-flight survival on the final day of a season interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

A Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, Grealish announced in 2015 that he wanted to represent England. Having switched to their Under-21 side, he made his senior England debut in a goalless draw against Denmark in September 2020.

Jack Grealish's stats for Aston Villa during the 2020-21 Premier League season
Jack Grealish’s stats for Aston Villa during the 2020-21 Premier League season

Last season, Grealish scored six goals in 26 Premier League appearances, including two in a 7-2 win over Liverpool, as Villa finished 11th.

He spent three months out injured from mid-February to mid-May but his return just before the end of the campaign saw him selected in England manager Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2020.

Grealish impressed in warm-up wins against Austria and Romania and made one start and four substitute appearances, registering two assists, for England during the tournament.

Games 26 12
Win % 50% 25%
Goals for 42 13
Goals against 29 17
Points per game 1.7 1.0

‘Book-balancing exercise’ helping to fund Grealish deal

Analysis by BBC Sport’s Simon Stone

For all the nudges about Manchester City’s spending and the questions about how the club manages to do deals like this one without falling foul of profit and sustainability rules, it is worth noting they are now responsible for the biggest single purchase by an English club during their Abu Dhabi ownership for only the second time.

The first occasion was that never-to-be-forgotten night in 2008 when Sheikh Mansour went on an elaborate sweep of available players to prove he was a man to be taken seriously and spent £50m on Brazil striker Robinho.

In the same period, Manchester United have held the record seven times. It is United’s £89m purchase of Paul Pogba in 2016 that the Grealish deal has overtaken.

Of City’s ‘big six’ rivals, only Tottenham have not invested a significant sum in an individual player during the pandemic – although United and Chelsea are the only clubs that can truly be argued to have spent such high sums so consistently over so many seasons.

There is a book-balancing exercise going on as well.

Including Leroy Sane’s exit for Bayern Munich last summer and the £11m they received as a sell-on payment from Borussia Dortmund’s sale of Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, City sources argue the club has already raised £109.5m over the past 12 months – with – potentially – another £55m to come through sales of younger players.

This does not include the exit of high-earning Sergio Aguero to Barcelona, nor the potential sales of bigger names before the transfer window closes, the most likely of which is Bernardo Silva, who wants to move to Spain.

On the basis that some clubs will always have more money than others, some may wonder why this is important anyway.

However, given their recent skirmish with Uefa over Financial Fair Play, it is understandable why City are sensitive when it comes to their finances.

Evidently though, the club is in a different place to 20 years ago, when they were trying to re-invent themselves under Kevin Keegan. Back then their idea of a big name was Eyal Berkovic, who joined them from Celtic for £1.5m.

Find all the latest football transfers on our dedicated page.

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