Jack Grealish says he agrees ‘a little bit’ with Manchester City teammate Kevin De Bruyne about the unfair criticism England players can receive, particularly in that he himself is targeted a tad too harshly for his actions on and off the pitch because he is English.
The former Aston Villa ace’s form has come under plenty of scrutiny in the year since his £100m move from Aston Villa last year, and his activities on holiday were the subject of many critical front pages over the summer. He has started this season in better form for City, although his lack of goals and assists – he scored his first goal of the season at Wolves on Saturday – has invited more predictable criticism this season.
And De Bruyne said after that Wolves game that players of other nationalities are not exposed to the same level of intense scrutiny as his English colleagues, with Grealish responding to those comments on Tuesday.
De Bruyne had said: “Outside of football, the focus is more on them [English players]. I understand because they are English and people tend to look more what is happening. I feel like foreign players, for instance if you have a night out, we don’t really get checked that often.
“Whereas I feel if an English player goes out, it is always in the media somewhere. I think people are taking this on board also. What he does in his private life he does, nobody should care, but people do.”
Speaking from the England camp ahead of their Nations League fixtures with Italy and Germany, Grealish was asked about the comments and immediately threw the question back to the reporters, saying: “I’ll ask you, do you [think I’m unfairly targeted]? I don’t know – I want to be friends with you all! I can obviously see where he’s coming from a little bit. But I think that’s just the way it is in this country, especially if you’re myself, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, who are winning trophies every single year.
“And obviously when I have the price tag on my head that I have, people are going to want to talk. It’s just something that I need to (get on with). I keep going back to it, saying embrace it and it’s just part and parcel, really. But, yeah, I do see where he’s coming from a little bit.”
Reflecting on his City form, Grealish moved to explain the differences between being the talisman at Villa to being one of many talented forwards at the Etihad, while accepting his form can and should improve.
“I feel like I deal with pressure well, I do feel like I can start playing a lot better,” he said. “I probably haven’t been playing at the top of my game since I moved to City this time last year. I think I’ve shown glimpses of it. Over the next two months especially I’m going to try and get my head down as much as I can and work so hard and hopefully it will happen.
“Before I moved to City I knew I was going to play pretty much every minute of every game. I was captain there and one of the first names on the team sheet. Then you come to a club like City and obviously no disrespect to the people I was with at Villa – it was a great, brilliant club with very good players – but when you come to City and have the likes of Kevin, Phil, I could go on, it’s difficult. We’ve even got a full-back at the moment in Joao Cancelo who I reckon is one of the best wingers in the world!
“It’s obviously different, difficult at times. When I was at Villa I played every game and you felt like you were in a rhythm. But you’re going to get that when you’re playing at a club with so many top players. As long as we’re training well and playing well it’s alright.”