It came as a surprise to many when Manchester City broke the Premier League transfer record to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa last summer. For a club that has never signed a player for £80 million before, paying £100 million for Grealish raised some eyebrows.
What was most surprising about the signing was the fact that the main target for the summer was a striker. Grealish was seen by many as somewhat of a luxury signing for City. Notwithstanding that he has stupendous talent and will add quality to any side.
But when you have a midfield already filled with top class talent, the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva while the forward line boasts of some of the best in the game at the moment such as Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and even Gabriel Jesus playing as wingers, there’s hardly any space for another attacker (except for the top striker position).
Getting Harry Kane would have solved that problem as it was the right fit for the position. But as negotiations dragged on with Tottenham, a deal was announced for Grealish that made him the most expensive British signing of all time.
Handing him the number 10 jersey vacated by the legendary Sergio Aguero added to the weight of expectations on his shoulders to produce results.
As it stands, the 26-year-old has contributed a meager two goals and same number of assists in 19 Premier League appearances for City this season.
That is a far cry from the numbers usually posted for Aston Villa. He was the main man in the team and always delivered.
Be it in goals, assists and the assist before the final assist, he was usually relied upon to deliver. Even for tackles and initiation of attacks, he was the man to look up to. The team practically revolved around him and whenever he had the ball he could whip up some magic to the team’s benefit.
Although he hasn’t been bad for City, he is yet to demonstrate the form that made City shell out such an amount for his services. Yet, Pep Guardiola’s belief in his new acquisition has been steadfast. The Catalan manager is always quick to praise him for his efforts.
Even the player himself knows that he is yet to live up to the heights reached at Villa Park. In his last season before moving to the Etihad Stadium he scored six goals and made 10 assists in 24 starts for the Claret and Blue. That was despite struggling with injury for a part of the season.
Although injuries have also slowed his settling down at City, that is not enough reason as he has been fit for most of the campaign so far.
He was expected to raise the game at City. At least, to distinguish himself as the most expensive player in the team. But that has not been the case.
He can be spared of criticism, this being just his first season at the club. He is still getting used to the team and trying to find how to fit in and make a difference.
But that won’t suffice as a good reason for his performance for much longer. As the season gradually winds down, this is the perfect time to show just why he can be regarded as one of the best players of his time.
City are currently going neck and neck with Liverpool as far as the title race is concerned. It will take some special performances in the remaining games of the season to take City across the finish line.
Who better than Grealish to step up to the plate and such a time?
The Blues have been sluggish as of late in games leading to an unexpected loss to Tottenham and a draw away at Crystal Palace. That allowed Liverpool to bridge the gap between the two teams at the top of the table to just a point.
But City still hold the advantage in the title race. Key players must step up to kill off games when necessary, in order to finish strong and retain the title.
Grealish must be first in line in that regard. He needs to rise to the challenge and show just why he is rated so highly by the executives at the Etihad Stadium.
Repaying their faith by helping the team get over the line in the league as well as excel in Europe will be the minimum he can do at this point.