When Manchester City spent a whopping £100 million to recruit Jack Grealish last summer, you could almost hear the collective gasp. This brought with it a great deal of pressure.
Since they took control in 2008, City has been able to spend a lot of money. Unparalleled success has resulted from this, but regrettably, the knives are continuously sharpened away from Etihad Stadium in anticipation of seeing those high-profile newcomers fail to meet the required criteria.
Being at the top comes with a price, but City wouldn’t have it any other way. No matter how many analysts, commentators, or supporters say Grealish should have been paid more, the amount his beloved Aston Villa demanded was what he was worth.
Pep Guardiola and other important figures at the Etihad Stadium took the risk and made the necessary effort. Grealish has yet to live up to the persistent faith placed in him, but while the price of his signing was an outlier, he is far from the only one who found it difficult to adapt to Guardiola’s rigorous mentality.
This season, as well as more recent recruits like Kalvin Phillips, is the moment to judge Grealish.
Grealish and more recent arrivals Kalvin Phillips and Erling Haaland deserve the same treatment since this season is the appropriate time to appraise Grealish. In this City squad, Haaland’s sole responsibility is to score goals and provide the star-studded group behind him with the focal point they have been lacking for a while.
Phillips, on the other hand, was chosen to bolster their midfield options. But what will the deep-lying England playmaker offer Guardiola and City in the future?
Last summer, former Manchester United captain turned commentator Gary Neville said of Phillips: “He only joined the Premier League a year ago, but he’s already the best English midfielder by far. Players are stereotyped. Is he a chess player? Is he an offensive player? I believe he is a relic of someone who can accomplish everything.”
Neville continued: “He runs, he tackles, he passes, he can defend. Honestly, he’s fantastic. He’s likable, he also has integrity when he speaks, you like watching him. He runs all day, the stats we see he produces, the most pressure is a dream. He’s a fantastic, fantastic player.”
Glowing praise indeed from a man who might have wanted Phillips to pitch up on the other side of this footballing city. In truth, that was never going to happen given his Leeds connections – despite Eric Cantona, Rio Ferdinand, and Alan Smith breaking that particular taboo in the Premier League era.