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More endorsement deals than assists: Why Grealish & Man City on track to split

COMMENT: When there's more endorsement deals on the record than assists, then you know there's a problem. And that's exactly what is confronting Manchester City and Jack Grealish in this final season stretch.

Pepsi, Puma, Gucci, Bose, Boohooman... we won't bother you with the smaller deals, as that's enough. For Grealish, these days, that's what he's famous for. Not for goals - he has three this season. Nor for assists; he has a paltry two - and that's from 27 appearances. Grealish doesn't generate football headlines. He did. Certainly he did as an Aston Villa player. But at City? Be honest. What springs to mind when you think of Grealish in a Sky Blue shirt? A great goal? A mazy dribble? Or all the boozing post-Treble triumph? The arguments with his birds. And the catalog of big money endorsement deals?

Cycle back three years and the memories are vivid. Grealish in the claret and blue of Aston Villa. Surging down that inside-left channel. Inspiring his teammates. Lifting the Holte End. Virtually carrying the club on his back.

This was the player that Pep Guardiola wanted to sign. The player to develop and mold into a readymade successor for Kevin de Bruyne or Bernardo Silva. But instead, City's manager has a living billboard. A gossip editor's dream. And nothing close to what he needs to maintain his team's dominance.

Indeed, the manager spelt out as much last month. Guardiola's comments coming in the same week as it was announced Grealish would be starring in a Pepsi ad alongside Vinnie Jones. Were the two linked? Only Pep can answer that, but his words should've set alarm bells ringing inside the Grealish camp.

“Jack is doing steps to get to his best level," said Guardiola, when asked about Grealish's absence. "Now he's competing with the players who are playing at a high, high level and that is the only reason why.

“He has to get back to what he was especially last season and all the period at Villa. I am looking forward to giving him minutes.

“This season was not like last season but he's getting better. That's what we're looking for."

For Grealish, this should sting. Pep spoke about last season, but he'll do that just to give the player something to hold onto. But this should cut Grealish deep. His manager is telling him: 'You're not the player we signed three years ago; You've not improved; And I have better options to call on.'

Just like his England teammate, Kalvin Phillips, Grealish is blowing it. He's blowing this opportunity to reach his potential under the best manager in the game. Yes, he had a role in the Treble last season, but it was strictly supporting cast. He was the headline act for the celebrations, sure. But where it mattered - on the pitch - he wasn't Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan or Kevin De Bruyne. Indeed, does anyone know the sponsors of Bernardo? Does he even have any...?

Grealish turns 29 this year and in that 'Villa' soundbite of Guardiola's, he name-dropped Jeremy Doku and Oscar Bobb. They're not the future of City. They're the here-and-now. The most we know about Doku away from the pitch is that he spends his off-time perfecting his English. For Bobb, it's simply the training pitch and the extra hours he puts in. These are Pep players. City players. Bernardo. De Bruyne. Ruben Dias. The character. The commitment. They typify today's City player. Grealish just doesn't appear to fit.

He should. He had the talent. The drive. To be the player Guardiola needed. But that momentum appears lost - and perhaps forever. Currently Grealish is spending international week trying to overcome a groin issue, having succumbed to hamstring problems in the first-half of the season. But are these setbacks simply due to misfortune - or self-inflicted? The result of all that over-indulging during the summer? Again, it was not exactly in keeping with what we expect from a Guardiola player.

In terms of today's ledger, Manchester City have done far, far more for Grealish than he has done for Manchester City. You only need to scan the red tops to recognise the value Grealish offers his football club. The headlines he generates. The stories he creates. They're not about City. The connection is virtually non-existent. And it's growing wider by the week.

“We need him," says Guardiola. "We need Jack. I am looking forward to have him back to his best and giving him minutes."

But as Pep has also said, that "best"... the "best" we saw at Villa, may already have passed Grealish by.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie


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