Jack Grealish has said Britain’s most expensive footballer is “a good tag to have” and one he aims to repay by helping Manchester City finally win the Champions League this season.
The England international became the first £100m transfer in Premier League history when ending his 19-year stay with boyhood club Aston Villa last week. Rather than feel the pressure or burden of such a staggering fee, the 25-year-old insisted it fuelled his confidence to know how highly Pep Guardiola and the Premier League champions valued his talent.
Speaking before greeting City fans outside the Etihad Stadium at his unveiling on Monday, Grealish said of his £100m transfer: “It probably hasn’t sunk in yet. It means so much to me that the club were willing to spend that much money on me. If anything it just fills me with confidence. I don’t think there’s any pressure with that price tag at all. It just shows how much the club and the manager value me and that only gives me confidence going forward.
“I take it as a compliment. I actually like it [being Britain’s most expensive signing], I think it is a good tag to have. I think when you see a club paying that much for a player it means they trust and value you highly and see so much potential there to work with. I see it as a good thing. Now I just hope I can repay this whole football club by winning as many titles as possible and winning that trophy we all want.”
“That” trophy, of course, is the Champions League prize that continues to elude City 13 years after Sheikh Mansour’s takeover. Grealish revealed Guardiola stated this season’s aim was to become champions of Europe for the first time.
“The club were so close to winning it last year; they were one goal away from winning it,” the midfielder said.
“That is exactly why I have come here – the manager said it to me when I spoke. I look around the changing room and there is so much talent and depth and I fully believe we can win it this year. The depth in every position is absolutely crazy.
“It has been difficult watching the games on those Tuesday-Wednesday nights. I believe I can play in those games. I remember watching Manchester City-PSG last year and the standard in the first half especially was outrageous. To be involved would be a dream come true. I remember speaking to John Terry at Villa about it and he said when you stand there and hear the Champions League anthem there is nothing better.”
Grealish described leaving Villa for a six-year contract with City as “one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make”, but one made for the betterment of his career.
He said: “I reported back for pre-season as I was meant to. It was obviously difficult because in the back of my head I knew I might be going so I didn’t really train, I just did a few things on my own.
“ Everyone saw the way Messi was at his final press conference [with Barcelona] and that is the exact way I felt myself. Before I left, I spoke to the team and staff at the hotel and teared up a bit myself but I felt it was time for me to move on.
“I have always said I wanted to play Champions League football and I couldn’t do that at Villa this year. I am at a club here that has so much potential and is the most successful English side of the last 10 years. They showed so much faith in me and I felt it was the right time.”
The former Villa captain cited trophies, Guardiola and playing alongside Kevin De Bruyne as other factors in his decision to move and admitted securing a regular role in the England team before next year’s World Cup was another reason to join the champions.
Grealish said: “I feel if I am performing for Manchester City week in, week out and performing in the Champions League it could set me up to have a brilliant future with the national team and help me start in the World Cup and in the qualifiers.”