Pep Guardiola said that Jack Grealish has been signed for the next five or six years, when assessing a fairly quiet 25 minute debut for Manchester City on Sunday.
After just one training session, Grealish was brought on at Wembley in the Community Shield and looked bright but couldn’t help City get the breakthrough they needed as Leicester snatched a late winner.
As Guardiola correctly pointed out after the game, City didn’t sign him for £100m to make an instant impact in his first, fitness-affected cameo. Instead, he’s a long-term project who will be moulded from the quality player he is now to someone who can really benefit Guardiola’s tactical approach.
Grealish will compete with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Ferran Torres and Riyad Mahrez on the wings, or could be used centrally to offer another option to Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan.
As the likes of Mahrez, De Bruyne and Gundogan get older, Grealish represents the future – a future that will probably surpass the reign of Guardiola.
After signing a two year extension last season, Guardiola’s task in that time is to continually refresh the City starting XI, while also ensuring the club is in a good shape when he leaves.
To complete the shake-up from the side that have dominated English football in the last four years, he must add to the £100m investment in Grealish by spending a further £200m to create an unstoppable new-look front three. They have the funds to sign an elite striker this summer, and will surely be looking to invest more next year.
The first deal should be to sign Harry Kane, even if that’s easier said than done. City would prefer to spend closer to £100m on the England captain, while Spurs are holding out for £150m or even £160m.
City insist they won’t rise to that upper figure for any player, so a compromise of £120-130m might be a fair outcome. It might be that Kane doesn’t arrive this summer, but would still be worth an investment in the next 12 months as he guarantees goals and still has the all-time Premier League goal record in his sights.
Then, if City are to look for an even longer-term solution to their forward problems, there may be a player available next year who could offer even better value for money than Ferran Torres gave last summer.
Available for a reported £75m release clause, Erling Haaland will be wanted by any club who could afford that fee, and City will hope they can win a race that will feature plenty of competition.
If Kane and Haaland could join Grealish for a combined cost of £300m, City would surely possess the most dangerous attack in world football for the 2022/23 season, and that’s before Sterling, Foden, Mahrez and De Bruyne are factored in.
Make those investments, and Guardiola would undoubtedly be leaving City in a fearsome shape, ready to continue winning titles long after he’s gone.