There has been plenty of talk this season already about Jack Grealish and his status in the Manchester City team since his £100 million move last summer.
Grealish had just saved his boyhood club from relegation, and then led them to a season in which they were pushing for European football mainly because of his individual performances.
There was interest from plenty of top clubs and he was seen as the next one to step up from the realms of mid-table greatness to a place among the elite, similar to what Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante had done from Leicester to City and Chelsea respectively.
That however didn’t stop the surprise when Grealish’s move to City was announced as a British and Premier League record, as he became the first player in England to move for a nine-figure sum.
Questions were raised immediately. Can he have the same impact for City that he did for Villa? Who will he start ahead of? Will he even start?
It quickly became evident that the answers to those questions were obvious.
City’s best football comes when there is a rotation between the two eights and the two wide players to create overloads and dominate possession.
Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus are all capable of playing across the front line, while Mahrez occupies that right wing slot so well that he makes a difference almost every time he starts a game.
Grealish doesn’t have the explosion of pace those players all have, he doesn’t have the match-winning gene for the most part and his best football comes when he is able to dictate the tempo of the game and speed it up when he wishes.
At City, he doesn’t have the freedom to do that because he is nowhere near being the key man and best player on the pitch.
As a £100 million attacker, you have to be able to provide match-winning contributions on a regular basis. Whether that be goals, assists, chances created, key passes or just general domination of a game.
If City are ever in desperate need of a goal, there are a raft of players that they will look to give the ball to more regularly than Grealish. He will never have that influence at the Etihad Stadium, because there are several players better than him at what he does best.
Grealish is a top talent, there’s no doubting that. But he has only registered a goal involvement in ten of 45 appearances for the club since his move, including the win over Wolves in which he scored the opener inside the first minute of the game.
Was Grealish worth £100 million to Aston Villa when they sold him? Absolutely, no doubt about it. You could even argue he was worth more to them as the face of the club.
Was he worth it to Man City? Not a chance. Will he ever be worth it to City? Never.
If he can’t justify his price tag, then it really doesn’t matter what he does at the club. He’s already won the title and reached the Champions League semi-finals in his first season, but does anyone doubt City would have done similar without him?
He will win trophies as a by-product of playing for City. He will not replace Sterling’s role at the club as they’re totally different players, but also because his price tag was twice that of what Sterling cost. He will never take Kevin De Bruyne’s role as the main man.
The only way that Grealish could possibly not be considered a flop at the end of his Manchester City career is if he plays an integral part in the club winning several trophies. Being integral to just one or two isn’t enough if you’re a £100 million man.
He’ll never get the platform to do that because he’s never going to be that player for them. He doesn’t have that quality to make the difference at the very highest level in a team stacked with elite talent.
Grealish is very good and will go down as just that. A very good player who had a spell at one of the most dominant teams in England during his career.
He’s a £100 million flop, and almost nothing will change that.