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Is Jack Grealish The Biggest Waste Of Money Man City Ever Spent?

For Aston Villa, the £100 million that Manchester City were rumoured to have paid for Jack Grealish was worth every penny. Whilst they would have preferred not to lose their talisman, the money allowed them to buy Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendia and Danny Ings, with only the latter failing to make an impression at the club. For City, meanwhile, it proved to be a divisive move.

It would be unfair to paint Grealish as a failure at the club, but there is certainly an argument that he hasn’t performed as well as one might hope when shelling out a British transfer record in order to bring a player into a club that was already performing well.

Who is Jack Grealish?

Jack Peter Grealish was born in Birmingham on the 10th of September 1995. Of Irish descent, Grealish played Gaelic football between the ages of 10 and 14, having already started playing football when he was much younger, joining Aston Villa when he was six.

He was named as a substitute for Villa for their game against Chelsea on the 31st of March 2012, when he was just 16-years-old, but he didn’t get on. In 2013 he was sent on loan to Notts County in League One to gain some experience, scoring his first career goal for them against Gillingham. He made his Villa debut on the sevens of May 2014, ironically against Manchester City.

His first start for Aston Villa came in a 3-3 draw against Queens Park Rangers, drawing plaudits for his play. When Villa played Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final in 2015, Grealish helped to set up Fabian Delph’s winner as the Midlands club came from behind to win.

He also played in the final, which Villa lost 4-0 to Arsenal. In the April of 2015 Grealish made headlines for all of the wrong reasons, being caught on camera inhaling nitrous oxide. It wasn’t the last time that Grealish made the papers, being caught breaking lockdown rules during the Covid-19 pandemic, being fined by the group as a result of his actions.

Signing for Manchester City

At the end of the 2019-2020 season, Jack Grealish was voted as Aston Villa’s Player of the Season by both his fellow players and the supporters. He was seen as the club’s talisman, signing a new contract on the 15th of September that would keep him at the club until 2025.

Less than a year later, it was confirmed that he had signed for Manchester City on a six-year contract, with the majority of news outlets reporting that the Sheikh Mansour-owned club had paid £100 million for him. That made it the most expensive transfer ever for a British player, as well as the most a British club had ever paid in order to sign a player.

Given the number 10 shirt that had belonged to Sergio Agüero, he made his debut in a match that City lost 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the 2021-2022 season. His first goal for his new club came in the same month, with the Cityzens defeating Norwich City 5-0.

When City beat RB Leipzig 6-3 in the Champions League group stage, Grealish scored his first goal in that competition as well as getting an assist for Nathan Aké. In the December of 2021, Grealish was dropped from the City squad along with his fellow player Phil Foden after the pair had paid a visit to a nightclub, which was seen as unprofessional.

Why is he Considered a Waste of Money?

Despite the fact that Manchester City won the Premier League during his debut season with the club, Grealish admitted at the end of the campaign that he’d had some difficulties adapting to the style of play required by manager Pep Guardiola.

He confessed that it had been ‘much more difficult’ than he’d thought that it would be. His teammates leapt to his defence, with İlkay Gündoğan stating that Grealish had been ‘so misunderstood by some of the media’, whilst Kevin De Bruyne felt that he was an easy target because of the fact that he was English. Within a year, however, he had won the continental treble.

The player won his second consecutive Premier League title, whilst a victory against Manchester United sealed an FA Cup win. Manchester City then played in the Champions League final against Inter Milan, with many people expecting the club to win it easily. In the end, it was a somewhat nervy 1-0 win over the Italian side that saw the Cityzens claim their first Champions League title.

For many football fans, the fact that City had been investigated by UEFA for financial misconduct but couldn’t be charged because there was a time-bar on some of their misdemeanours, as well as the fact that they were facing 115 charges of Financial Fair Play misconduct by the Premier League, put a cloud over the club’s accomplishments.

For some, the success of City and the contribution of Grealish to that was proof that he had settled into life in Manchester and had made a big contribution to the club’s success. There was also talk from some quarters that he might be a future Ballon d’Or contender. A BBC Sport contributor said that he was ‘almost undroppable’ when it came to the big games. Yet there was still a sense that he had, if anything, under-performed when his price tag was taken into account. There have been comparisons made to Paul Gascoigne, owing to his ability with a football combined with his perceived hedonism off the pitch.

In spite of being the record holder for being the most fouled player, there is a feeling from the majority of football fans as well as numerous pundits that he goes down too easily. In spite of his obvious qualities as a player, the fact that he regularly hits the deck when he feels the slightest contact rubs people up the wrong way.

In the December of 2020, Steve Nicol said, “Jack Grealish throws himself on the ground 50 times a game. I was actually looking at the clock today. The first time he went down was just under a minute on the clock. The next one was on three minutes! Most embarrassing…He really spoils it for me when I’m watching.”

How do His Stats Compare?

Whilst there would be no point in comparing Jack Grealish to a defender or goalkeeper in terms of his stats, it is entirely fair to look at his accomplishments when compared to other attacking midfielders that Manchester City have signed under Pep Guardiola.

Here is a look at how many goals and assists they have in all competitions across the first two seasons Grealish spent with the club, seeing how much it cost per million for them:

Player Total Goal Contributions (G+A) Player Cost Cost Per Goal Contribution
Jack Grealish 26 £100 million £3,846,153
Kevin De Bruyne 75 £55 million £733,333
Bernado Silva 35 £43.5 million £1,242,857

Obviously that is an extremely basic way of looking at it and it doesn’t include wages paid to the players, but in terms of pure contribution to the team it is clear to see that Jack Grealish cost three times more more goals and assists than Bernado Silva, looking at all competitions played in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 campaigns. He cost more than five times that of Kevin De Bruyne.

Given the need to have English players in the squad, Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City backroom staff might argue that he was worth every penny, to say nothing of the fact that he was signed on a five-year contract rather than two, but it is still interesting nevertheless to look at the numbers.