Jack Grealish became the most expensive player in British football when completing a £100 million ($121m) transfer from Aston Villa to Manchester City in the summer of 2021, but he is yet to deliver the desired return on that record-setting investment.
He is a Premier League title winner, with 39 appearances taken in for the Blues across all competitions last season, but he registered only six goals and four assists through his debut campaign at the Etihad Stadium and more is expected from the talented England international.
Why has the mercurial 26-year-old struggled to find a spark? Is Pep Guardiola’s tactical approach to blame, with a Catalan coach in a position to better manage a big-money asset, or is it merely taking a while for confidence and creativity to build in new surroundings?
Why is Jack Grealish yet to sparkle for Man City?
That question was put by GOAL to former City midfielder Dietmar Hamann, with the ex-Germany international – who was speaking in association with Genting Casino – saying: “In Grealish they brought in a player who needs to be let off the hook, and for me he [Guardiola] is holding him back. He wants him to pass the ball.
“Watching him in Munich, England didn’t play well against Germany [in a 1-1 UEFA Nations League draw], but Grealish got the ball, took players on and was electric. He gets the crowd going. When I see him for City, it is like somebody is holding him back.
“The way they have to now play with [Erling] Haaland, because you have to play a certain way with him – be a bit more direct – whether that will suit him and whether he will benefit from that change, I’m not too sure.
“Grealish is a player that if you get the best out of him, he is a game changer. He is a player who can win you the Premier League.”
Who is to blame – Guardiola or Grealish?
Pressed further on why Grealish has been a different player for City than the one that became a talismanic figure at Aston Villa and a fan favourite with England, Hamann added: “Is he allowed to run with the ball? He [Guardiola] has got to encourage him.
“If it’s not Pep telling him, then he should tell him to take people on. That’s his game. They like to pass teams to death.
“Grealish is a direct player, he likes to run with the ball. At Villa, he would carry the ball 70, 80 yards and assist a goal – which I have never seen anybody do for the last 20 years. I have a feeling that he is being held back.
“He has won the league now, maybe that gives him a bit more confidence to express himself and maybe try a bit more.
“I want to see Grealish take players on and do what he did at Villa. To an extent he can’t do it at City because he has good players next to him, but I feel something is holding him back – whether that is the manager or himself. I hope he influences City’s season more than he did last year.”
Will Guardiola bring the best out of Grealish?
By Jonathan Smith – Manchester City correspondent for GOAL
Pep Guardiola was happy with Jack Grealish’s first season but now is the time to step up and show why City paid £100m for him.
It was something of a culture shock when he first arrived at the Etihad, where discipline is more valued than for much of his time at Aston Villa.
There, he could play with a freedom and individuality, with the knowledge that the pressure for results, particularly against top-six sides, is nowhere near as strong as it is at City.
But it’s that flair and spirit which is why Guardiola wanted him and the City boss has been working hard to increase his confidence to not be in awe of his stellar team-mates.
Grealish has shown flashes of his quality and there is a strong belief that there is much, much more to come.