Man City players fail to pick up Grealish after Aston Villa star missed his shot

One by one, they tried and failed. John Stones, Kyle Walker, most of his team-mates, all manner of backroom staff members, the odd random suit.

But no-one could lift Jack Grealish to his feet.

Maybe it was the issue that saw him spend half the match doing stretching exercises.

Maybe he did not want anyone to see his tears.

Maybe he was just exhausted from the game-long pursuit of Manchester City shadows.

Maybe he was embarrassed he made a late passing error that pretty much summed up his day.

More likely, though, he knew this was it. The chance to lift a trophy as the captain of his beloved Aston Villa had gone.

It would be heart-warming if Grealish stayed with Villa.

If they are relegated, help them bounce straight back. If they survive, help them kick on.

But surely only the most optimistic of Villa supporters believe he will be with them post-summer.

The irony is that, purely on what the world saw in this event, a super-power would surely baulk at the idea of shelling out galactico cash on a figure who was strictly peripheral, on a player outshone by a 19-year counterpart in Phil Foden.

Grealish did not look like the most exciting talent England has produced since Paul Gascoigne, as Joe Cole had claimed.

He looked more like Joe Cole lite, as it happened.

But no club, no manager, no director of football, will base a bid for Grealish solely on this shift.

Unfortunately for Villa, Grealish might base a decision on his future by what he saw buzz around him in a final that was close but won by a team with a richness of quality the likes of Dean Smith can only dream of.

There were long phases when this was a contest, especially in the wake of Mbwana Samatta’s first half header, which halved the City lead earned by Sergio Aguero’s strike and Rodri’s own header.

But the gulf in quality was predictably wide.

There is something insulting about talk of players having to leave Villa for ‘bigger’ clubs.

Aston Villa is a magnificent institution, festooned with honours, once champions of Europe, as their contingent reminded City’s following.

Which is fair enough. But the world and his wife and Grealish know only one of these clubs has the chance of ruling Europe in the foreseeable future.

Prince William was in the stands to support a club that is now amongst Premier League commoners.

That they made such an honourable fist of this challenge was a credit to their endeavour and spirit, qualities they will need between now and mid-May.

City were a touch slapdash and that helped Villa stay in contention but Villa were nothing if not dogged and, when Bjorn Engels’ late header was pushed on to the upright by Claudio Bravo, few would have begrudged them a longer crack at the task

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