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Premier League

Jack Grealish: “I felt the same way as Messi”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Jack Grealish of Aston VIlla celebrates scoring their first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on December 01, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Jack Grealish while making the switch from boyhood club Aston Villa to Manchester City said he felt the same as a tearful Lionel Messi did when announcing his exit from Barcelona.

On Thursday, Grealish joined City for a British-record £100million fee. The Premier League champions meeting the England midfielder’s release clause to take him to the Etihad Stadium.

Confirmation of Grealish’s transfer came on the same day Barcelona announced they would be unable to sign Messi to a new contract due to “financial and structural obstacles”.

Messi, who is widely reported to be nearing a deal to join Paris Saint-Germain, then held a media conference on Sunday which turned emotional as he confirmed the end of his 21-year stay at Camp Nou, with the Argentina superstar crying on stage before and after his remarks.

TOPSHOT - Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi cries during a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 8, 2021. - The six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi had been expected to sign a new five-year deal with Barcelona on August 5 but instead, after 788 games, the club announced he is leaving at the age of 34.
(Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP) (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Grealish had been at Villa since the age of six and told reporters on Monday that he empathised with Messi.

“Everyone has seen the way Messi was at his final press conference,” said Grealish.

“That is the exact way I felt myself.

“Before I left the hotel I spoke to the team, the staff and the players and I teared up a bit myself.”

When Villa re-signed Grealish to a new contract last season, they did so while accepting his proviso that they would not stand in his way if a club playing Champions League football made an approach for him.

And he is relishing the chance to play in European club football’s top competition, with City aiming to go one better in 2021-22 having lost the final to Chelsea last season.

“I felt like it was time for me to move on,” Grealish added.

“I’ve always said how much I wanted to play Champions League football – I couldn’t do that at Villa this year.

“I have come here to win silverware and play in the Champions League, so that is my only focus now.”

Prior to Grealish’s City debut in the Community Shield ,Pep Guardiola revealed that he and Txiki Begiristain have long been admirers of the England international.

That admiration is mutual, Grealish insisting he is unburdened by his price tag and excited to work under the former Barca and Bayern Munich boss.

“I’m going to be learning from him every day and I genuinely cannot wait to work with him,” Grealish explained.

“The way he is in training is unbelievable. The stuff he has certain players doing in certain positions – it is something I would never think of and it just works.

“Everyone here is so desperate to play under him. Pep was a massive factor in me coming here.

“When you see a football club paying that sort of money for a player, it means they trust you and value you highly and see so much potential there.

“I see it as a good thing and now I hope I can repay this football club by winning as many titles as possible and winning that [Champions League] trophy we all want.”

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