Jack Grealish’s heart-on-the sleeve observations make him an appealing part of a Man City side which have a robotic intensity – he couldn’t his usual conjour magic against Inter but he is now a Treble winner
- Manchester City beat Inter Milan in the Champions League on Saturday night
- Jack Grealish, 27, played 90 minutes in their 1-0 win over the Serie A giants
- Grealish had to overcome a lot of stick from the Aston Villa and Man City fans
- RELIVE the action with Mail Sport’s live blog for the Champions League final
It comes to something when your new club’s so-called ‘superfans’ are on your back before you’ve even kicked a ball but that’s the way it was when Jack Grealish left the Villa for Manchester City.
‘100 f***** million pounds. If that’s the case, Foden must be worth 500 million plus, Liam Gallagher had to say, two years ago, of the player who has made himself an indispensable part of the side which went in search of the ultimate prize.
Grealish is such a divisive figure that some fans of Aston Villa, a club he dragged to a higher plain, were tweeting last night to say that they wanted Inter to win, though the stick he’s had from those quarters is a minor anxiety compared with that distinct sense imposter syndrome which he displayed after arriving in Manchester.
Despite, that raffish exterior and the rather too cultivated hair, Grealish’s discussion in several interviews a year or so back gave the impression of someone trying desperately to fit in among the superstars he doesn’t entirely consider himself to be one of.
He’s revealed how his persistent wish to provide assists for his team-mates had left some of them actually asking why on earth he didn’t shoot more, when they’d seen him score on the training ground. ‘I shoot way less than anyone,’ he said at one stage. Yes, perhaps he should be more selfish, he agreed.
Those heart-on-the sleeve observations are what make Grealish an appealing part of a side which have a robotic intensity at time and Saturday night presented the chance to crown a season in which he had looked the doubters in the eye and seen them off.
He looked a banker to do so because of all that he has done this season. It has been in the Champions League that he has shown much of his prowess, though his numbers reveal an improvement in the Premier League, too. His minutes per goal or assist ratio this season has been 309 compared with 683 last season
It was an old school forward’s role for him in many ways – Grealish hugging the left touchline, dropping outside of it at times, giving himself the width to drive, one-to-one at full back Denzel Dumfries and take danger to the heart of the Inter defence.
He had the capacity to do so. That much was evident around the 40-minute mark when the Dutch defender at his shirt as he travelled around the outside. Grealish was brought to ground, though the moment screamed for more of the same. The creation an attacking flank allowing City to skirt to frenetic pressing of an Inter side whose resolve all night deconstructed the general idea that they would be a pushover.
It was the ultimate game and stage, requiring the ultimate performance from Grealish and something world class. The capacity to visualise how to break through the Inter defensive battery, to up the tempo, cause surprise. That’s what differentiates the good player from the great. But it was something Grealish could simply not manufacture. There was the occasional ball fed inside but not the pass across the defence to find Bernardo Silva in space, which opened up in the first half, and none of the combination play needed to send Erling Haaland in.
Mario Balotelli did not have much to say on BT Sport. ‘No comment’. was his reply when asked the game would go. But even he could see what was needed against his former Italian side, at half time. ‘I think that City should go one-v-one, especially Grealish and now Phil Foden because they have quality,’ he said.
There was little change in the second half. The strength Dumfries brought in the right wing back role demanded that Grealish drop inside, looking for space, though others had the presence of mind to create the space there. Manuel Akanji’s pass unlocked the space to create the goal. John Stones was a far more creative presence.
Grealish often relates the aphorism which one of the academy coaches at Villa, Steve Burns, once taught him: ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ He couldn’t make something out of it on Saturday night.
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