Lionel Messi isn’t the only player who has been making a tearful farewell to his long-time club.
Jack Grealish’s final moments as an Aston Villa player before his $139 million move to Manchester City saw him address his teammates and the club’s management at the team hotel last week, and it got emotional.
“Everyone has seen the way Messi was at his final press conference,” Grealish said, referring to the Argentina great who is leaving Barcelona likely for Paris Saint-Germain, “and that is the exact way I felt.”
“I teared up a little bit myself,” he added. “But it was time for me to move on.”
Grealish, who had been with Villa since the age of 6, was presented as a City player on Monday, four days after he officially became British soccer’s most expensive player. He said there were “six or seven” reasons why he wanted to move to City.
Playing under Pep Guardiola is high among them — “I have been here now for two days,” Grealish said, “and honestly the way he is in training is unbelievable, I can’t explain it” — but the thing the England midfielder kept coming back to was playing in the Champions League.
And winning it — something City has never achieved, despite its heavy spending for more than a decade.
“I just hope I can repay this football club by winning as many titles as possible,” he said, “and winning that trophy that we all want.”
“That’s exactly why I’ve come here,” the 25-year-old Grealish continued, referring specifically to the Champions League. “That’s what the manager said to me when we spoke. I look around the changing room and there is so much talent and depth in the squad that I fully believe we can win it this year.”
Grealish said he was looking forward to playing in a variety of positions at City, even as a “false nine,” and added that the price tag wouldn’t weigh him down. In fact, he viewed it as a compliment more than a burden.
“If anything, it fills me with confidence,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any pressure on that price tag. It just shows how much the club and manager value me, and that gives me confidence.”
Grealish made his debut for City as a second-half substitute in a 1-0 loss to Leicester on Saturday in the Community Shield, the traditional curtain-raiser to the new season played between the Premier League and FA Cup winners.