Grealish: "I felt exactly like Messi when I left Aston Villa"
Lionel Messi cried announcing his Barcelona exit, and Jack Grealish empathised with the Argentina star having left boyhood club Aston Villa.
Jack Grealish felt the same as a tearful Lionel Messi did when announcing his Barcelona exit as he made the switch from boyhood club Aston Villa to Manchester City.
Grealish joined City for a British-record £100million fee on Thursday, the Premier League champions meeting the England midfielder's release clause to take him to the Etihad Stadium. Confirmation of Grealish's transfer came on the same day Barcelona announced they would be unable to hand Messi a new contract due to "financial and structural obstacles".
Messi, who is widely reported to be nearing a deal to join Paris Saint-Germain, then held an emotional media conference on Sunday as he confirmed the end of his 21-year stay at Camp Nou, with the Argentina superstar crying on stage before and after his remarks.
Grealish had been at Villa since the age of six and told reporters on Monday that he empathised with Messi. "Everyone has seen the way Messi was at his final press conference," he said. "That is the exact way I felt myself. Before I left the hotel I spoke to the team, the staff and the players and I teared up a bit myself."
Grealish joins the Premier League champions
When Villa tied Grealish to a new deal last season, they did so while accepting his proviso that they would not stand in his way if a club playing Champions League football made an approach for him. And he is relishing the chance to play in European club football's top competition, with City aiming to go one better in 2021-22 having lost the final to Chelsea last season.
"I felt like it was time for me to move on," Grealish added. "I've always said how much I wanted to play Champions League football – I couldn't do that at Villa this year. I have come here to win silverware and play in the Champions League, so that is my only focus now."
Pep Guardiola revealed prior to Grealish's City debut in the Community Shield that he and Txiki Begiristain have long been admirers of the England international. That admiration is mutual, Grealish insisting he is unburdened by his price tag and excited to work under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
"I'm going to be learning from him every day and I genuinely cannot wait to work with him," Grealish explained. "The way he is in training is unbelievable. The stuff he has certain players doing in certain positions – it is something I would never think of and it just works. Everyone here is so desperate to play under him. Pep was a massive factor in me coming here. When you see a football club paying that sort of money for a player, it means they trust you and value you highly and see so much potential there. I see it as a good thing and now I hope I can repay this football club by winning as many titles as possible and winning that [Champions League] trophy we all want."