Jack Grealish is starting to justify Man City and Pep Guardiola's Lionel Messi decision – Manchester Evening News

Manchester City splashed out a British record £100m on the popular England playmaker last summer.
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Jack Grealish was paid the ultimate compliment by Pep Guardiola when he was assigned the no.10 shirt for Manchester City at a time when Lionel Messi or Harry Kane might have taken it instead.
Rewind to summer 2021. Grealish fever had swept across the nation as his swashbuckling displays, mainly from the bench, almost inspired England to Euro 2020 glory.
It was enough to convince Guardiola, meanwhile, that he was the right man to push City forward. It cost them a pretty penny in what remains a British record £100million.
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Of course, that hefty price tag brought with it huge pressure, so too the fact that Guardiola was heavily linked with forcing through a reunion with Messi at that juncture. City were also priced out of a high-profile move for Kane, and it was a case of what might have been from the outside looking in.
Through it all, though, the Catalan declared that Grealish was his primary target, although the way the market turned with Messi leaving Barcelona for PSG on a free transfer, there was an outside chance that all three may have pitched up at the Etihad Stadium in the same window, not to mention whispers around Cristiano Ronaldo.
Speaking about Grealish – amid links with Messi – when he signed, Guardiola said: "He will have the number 10 shirt because we were incredibly convinced with Jack Grealish and were convinced that Leo would continue with Barcelona.
"We signed Jack and [thought] Messi would continue there. We believed Jack would be perfect for us.
"For the age, for the quality, he will be an incredible player for the next five or six years. He's got many mates here who know him and we'll create the right environment for him to express his talent.
"We believe we've got an incredible talent – and not just the skills but the mentality. He's 25 and has the best years in his career [ahead]. He made an exceptional contribution at Aston Villa and he can get to another level with us."
It has been far from plain sailing for Grealish since then, but his positive attitude did not waver. City are, now, reaping the rewards for their faith, as the floppy-haired playmaker, armed with his trademark headband and miniature shin pads, has carried the fight simultaneous to Guardiola questioning that trait in some teammates.
All but one of his five goal involvements have come in six games since the World Cup this winter. Grealish no doubt craves better still from his output, but his input has long since been admired by Guardiola – dating right back to when he first laid eyes on the popular former Aston Villa captain.
Guardiola added: "When I watch him on TV, I said that guy controls the tempo. I love when he has the ball, he stops before the dribble and opponents stop, as well. He controls the tempo and rhythm when he accelerates and decelerates the action.
"Then, especially when we played against him, the physicality, the special mentality of how he fought against the opponents, against our players. He said; 'I'm here'.
Grealish is here and has gone to that next level, but Guardiola will not allow him to stop there. If he can keep improving, he really can justify Guardiola's decision not to swoop for Messi.
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