Phil Foden could miss the opening month of Manchester City's Premier League title defence with the foot injury that ruled him out of the Euro 2020 final and left him in tears.

England playmaker Foden was laid low during the build-up to the Wembley showdown with Italy, having impressed in an extra-time cameo against Denmark in the semi-finals.

Roberto Mancini's Azzurri prevailed on penalties as the 21-year-old was restricted to a watching brief and, with City beginning their top-flight campaign at Tottenham on Sunday, he will be out of action once more.

Back-to-back home games against newly promoted Norwich City and Arsenal will also come too soon, with a September 11 trip to Leicester City after the international break or the following weekend's game against Southampton representing possible return dates.

"It's still a little bit sore. It was such a shame to do it just before the Euro final, it was really unfortunate," Foden told Sky Sports News.

"I'm working hard in the gym. Hopefully I can get back as soon as possible. I would say around three to four weeks more.

"Hopefully it flies by and I can get back on the pitch."

Foden was named PFA Young Player of the Year, scoring 16 goals and laying on 10 assists across all competitions as Pep Guardiola's side won a fourth consecutive EFL Cup and their third league title in four seasons.

Nevertheless, there were also moments of bitter disappointment, as Chelsea claimed a 1-0 win over their Premier League counterparts in the Champions League final before a crestfallen Foden discussed being ruled out of the Euros showpiece with England boss Gareth Southgate.

"I remember speaking to the manager when I got injured and I just burst out crying with tears, with devastation that I was injured,” he revealed.

"I was just praying on that day that the team won and unfortunately we didn't. But we're proud of what we did, we created history in getting to the final and I think next time we go into a major tournament it's going to help us.

"It was so good to see in the changing room how together everyone was. It was a special moment to share with the team.

"Come the [2022] World Cup, I feel like those experiences can only help us."

Alongside Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones, another member of that England dressing room is now a club colleague.

Jack Grealish joined City for a British record £100million from Aston Villa last week and Foden is relishing lining up alongside him.

"We're close. When I first went to England we got on really well on and off the pitch," he said of Grealish.

"I'm really glad he's signed here and hopefully I can get back playing with him and enjoy my football.

"He's fearless on the ball, he can change a game on his own. I believe he's a really special player for us this year and he's going to be key for us."

John Stones has backed "fearless" Jack Grealish to make an immediate impact at Manchester City following his arrival from Aston Villa for a British-record £100million fee.

England international Grealish was confirmed as a City player last week and made his debut as a second-half substitute in Sunday's 1-0 Community Shield defeat to Leicester City.

The 25-year-old played 25 minutes in that annual curtain-raising fixture, managing 25 touches of the ball and completing 15 of his 16 passes during his time on the pitch.

He is in contention to start City's opening Premier League fixture against Tottenham next Sunday and Stones is excited by what his international team-mate will bring to the side.

"Jack's an incredible footballer. A raw talent. I think you can see he is a bit fearless in how he plays and very direct," Stones told City's official website.

"We only saw a little bit of him in the Euros, but when he came on everyone was excited to see him and he came on and gave some vital assists at key moments.

"He is a big game player. An incredible person as well. He is coming into one of the best dressing rooms in the world non-football wise, with the characters we have here and he will fit in straight away.

"I am sure he will be looking forward to more success here and hopefully winning some silverware."

Stones was speaking after signing a new long-term contract at the Etihad Stadium that keeps him tied down to City until June 2026.

Former Everton defender Stones has spent the past five seasons with City and played an integral part in last term's Premier League and EFL Cup double.

City kept 19 clean sheets across the centre-back's 35 appearances in 2020-21 and conceded only 16 times with him on the field.

The 27-year-old's 24 blocks in 2020-21 were his most in a single season at City, while 32 tackles and 146 recoveries were above his average numbers over the past five seasons.

It marked quite the turnaround for Stones, who struggled for form and fitness during 2019-20 and came close to leaving the club.

And the Barnsley academy product has thanked Pep Guardiola and City's coaching staff for the faith shown in him.

"I think everyone, coaching staff, all the other staff that are here, from day one made me feel so welcome," Stones said.

"Everyone plays a major part in our success as players. I appreciate what everyone does for me here as a person.

"It is hard to say, but they have had a big impact on me and it was an easy decision for me to put pen to paper again. I feel like this is home and I absolutely love the place."

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

Grealish joined City for a British-record £100million fee on Thursday, 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 an emotional media conference on Sunday 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.

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."

Pep Guardiola revealed prior to Grealish's City debut in the Community Shield 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."

Jack Grealish's Wembley cameo impressed Pep Guardiola and the Manchester City manager is in bullish mood for the new season despite a 1-0 Community Shield defeat to Leicester City.

British record signing Grealish appeared as a second-half substitute in the traditional English curtain raiser, but Kelechi Iheanacho came off the bench to win and convert a late penalty against his former club.

Back at the stadium where he was the focus of adoration during England's Euro 2020 campaign, £100million man Grealish was rapturously received by the Manchester contingent, but the Leicester fans jeered his every involvement.

That amounted to a tidy 15 of 16 passes completed, including one chance created for fellow substitute Ben Knight, with 25 touches overall and seven duels contested in 25 minutes on the field.

"I saw many incredibly good things today. I don’t feel we played badly. I said to all the guys how proud I am," Guardiola told a post-match news conference.

"But in this business, you must win. And when you don't, congratulate the opponent.

"Jack was really good – aggressive, going against full-backs. Every time he had the ball he had three players [drawn towards him].

"We will find the tempo, he will know his mates, we will know him and, step by step, we will find our best.

"I know he is a lovely guy so he will adapt quickly.

"He didn't come to play 25 minutes, he came to play five or six years, that's why we will be incredibly patient like we will be for all new players every time they come."

 

Guardiola reserved praise for teenagers Cole Palmer and Sam Edozie, who were rewarded with starts after impressive pre-season showings in the absence of a host of international stars including Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus.

Winger Edozie scored three goals in three friendlies, only to shank a clear first-half opening against Leicester. However, Guardiola felt the 18-year-old's response spoke volumes.

"What I like from them is they lost one or two balls and then the next one, try again and try again," he said.

"Cole was exceptional all game. In the first half [Ricardo] Pereira won the duels with Sam but second half he was incredibly aggressive.

"Since minute one in the second half, Sam took the ball and was aggressive

"Unfortunately, we missed some chances and did not create much up front, but the game was there."

Guardiola again bemoaned a schedule that has denied him much time on the training ground with key stars, but he is confident City can deliver as they pursue a fourth Premier League in five seasons.

"Mentally, yeah, of course I'm ready. But how can we be ready when some of the players have three or four training sessions?" he added.

"We have to adapt, adapt and adapt. We did last season when we started a little bit flat. After a while we were there and started to win.

"After what I saw today, I am incredibly confident that many good things are going to happen this season."

A tight game at Wembley in the English summer of 2021 and a spot of clock-watching and bench-watching to see whether Jack Grealish might come on. It's basically become a national past time.

Of course, this was the more sedate setting of the Community Shield between Leicester City and Manchester City, whose freshly minted £100million man was among the substitutes, and not the febrile passion pit of a push for Euro 2020 glory. More the sort of occasion that might cause you to happily wave a sparkler around rather than stick a flare somewhere unmentionable.

Not that the men on the touchline were taking this lightly. Pep Guardiola, fairly remarkably, managed to get booked as he did during the 2019 version of this fixture. He disagreed volubly after referee Paul Tierney penalised Cole Palmer for an aerial challenge on Leicester full-back Ryan Bertrand.

Shortly afterwards, Brendan Rodgers responded to a botched Kasper Schmeichel clearance by booting a water bottle towards the grey London sky.

Grealish had been merrily volleying balls around with his new team-mates during the warm-up, which he closed by thundering a 40-yard strike just over the top corner before being the last player off with an arm around City youth-team captain Tommy Doyle.

The price-tag certainly isn't weighing too heavily right now for a man who looks as if he lacks a single care in the world, even if his public approval ratings have taken a hit.

 

Wembley laid on universal adoration for Grealish and his velvet touches while playing for Gareth Southgate's England. Here, the booing from the Leicester end felt a little more edgy than pantomime when the ex-Aston Villa captain appeared on the big screen before kick-off and again when he sauntered into a gentle jog and some stretches early in the second period.

By that stage, a Leicester side close to full-strength – although lacking Wesley Fofana after the broken leg he suffered on the end of an awful tackle from Villarreal's Fer Nino in midweek – had enjoyed the edge in terms of clear chances. Zack Steffen made two close-range saves, the second particularly excellent, to deny Jamie Vardy, who played with his typical verve.

As the hour passed, it was certainly a contest worthy of Guardiola and Rodgers' investment. Teenage winger Sam Edozie grew into the match for the Premier League champions, buoyed by three goals in three pre-season outings. Ilkay Gundogan slashed off target inside a crowded penalty area, as did Riyad Mahrez when through on goal, naturally to much brouhaha in the Leicester end.

Then, in the 64th minute, some activity on the bench. Grealish thumbed through a tactics clipboard far less weighty than any encyclopaedia, threw on his white match shirt and joined Rodri on the touchline. The Manchester contingent roared and further barracking followed from the other end of the stadium.

 

With his first involvement, English football's former unity candidate dribbled easily past Ayoze Perez and laid off to Rodri. A few seconds later he was down the left flank and won a throw in a dangerous position, before a Palmer pass allowed him to advance into the Leicester area, where he was crowded out.

In the 70th minute, Grealish returned the favour with a delicious outside-of-the-foot pass, although Youri Tielemans was back to thwart the youngster. It demonstrated the space that was being opened up by two opposition players going towards the British record signing every time he collected the ball. The damage the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden might do in such conditions when they return is a chilling prospect for the rest of the league.

Bernardo Silva was rapturously welcomed for potentially a farewell City appearance and the midfielder's introduction allowed Grealish to rove – a pirouetting dribble in-field ended with him tumbling to the turf and left Tierney unimpressed.

The official had a simple call when he pointed to the spot in the 87th minute. Nathan Ake blotted a solid afternoon's work by bundling Kelechi Iheanacho over and the former City striker thumped his spot-kick past the impressive Steffen.

Wembley fate sealed from 12 yards as you watch on. The more things change, eh Jack?

Jack Grealish and Aston Villa provided a perfect model of how to sell a star player "in the best possible way", Stiliyan Petrov says.

And former Villa captain Petrov feels it is an example Harry Kane and Tottenham should heed as the England captain attempts to join Grealish at Manchester City.

Grealish left Villa Park for £100million this week, having wanted to join a Champions League club.

For Kane, who has already played in Europe's elite club competition, the intention appears to be to join a genuine title contender.

Spurs have fallen away, while City appear well set for their Premier League title defence.

It was reported Kane skipped pre-season training in a bid to force a transfer, although the striker said on Friday he "would never, and have never, refused to train" and was due to return "as planned".

City remain interested, as Pep Guardiola confirmed earlier the same day, but Tottenham are not willing sellers in the same way Villa were, having agreed Grealish's £100m release clause last year.

Luka Modric and Gareth Bale were each at odds with Spurs previously as they sought moves to Real Madrid, and Petrov suggests the "communication" between players and board at the London club is not as effective as at Villa.

"Everybody is blaming Harry Kane, [but] the way Aston Villa has handled Jack Grealish's situation was the prime example," Petrov, one of the founders of Player 4 Player, told Stats Perform.

"They sat down, they negotiated, they have talked about it. They managed to send Jack in the best possible way. Some fans will be unhappy, but many will be happy.

"Don't forget that they will get a really great price tag: £100million for Jack.

"He has given great years as a player for Aston Villa, they sat down, they have done it nicely, the player left in the best possible way, he was back for training, but that comes from the manager, from the coach of the club.

"And sometimes, you know, people blame the players, but don't blame just the players. You know what? It is always conversations, communication and the way of doing it.

"It seems like Tottenham haven't managed to do it for many years, because I can give you a lot of prime examples of a lot of players that ended in the same way. Probably that is the way they have decided to work."

Jack Grealish will be compared to global superstars like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe following his £100million move to Manchester City, Stiliyan Petrov expects.

England winger Grealish completed his transfer from boyhood club Aston Villa to City this week and could make his debut from the bench in Saturday's Community Shield.

Villa confirmed they had received £100m from City for their captain, triggering a release clause and making Grealish the Premier League's first nine-figure signing.

That is a select group across Europe, including the world's most expensive player Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Mbappe.

"Jack Grealish has become part of the Neymar 100 million, Mbappe 100 million, [Philippe] Coutinho [group]," ex-Villa captain Petrov, one of the founders of Player 4 Player, told Stats Perform.

"So now he is not just a UK star and brand, now he's become global. Now he's become even bigger because now he is compared with one of the best.

"All the eyes will be on Jack now. Jack has to understand that the hard work starts now.

"In a team like Manchester City, every single player there is a top player. So, you have to go there, you have to adjust your game, you have to be at the top of your game every single time.

"If you don't play well every single week, the next [player] is waiting for your spot. When [they take] over, sometimes it takes months before he comes out again because the team is so well drilled and they just win games.

"So, Jack has a huge challenge. But when you are a top player, when you are a player with his abilities, you are always willing to challenge yourself.

"That is probably one of the reasons that he moved on, because with everything we will be reading in the press about Villa looking after him, Villa offering him a new contract, I think that Villa have done everything in their power to keep Jack Grealish.

"Unfortunately, that offer came at the time he has to make a decision to develop in a different way or stay at the club that he loves."

Petrov added: "He's got the platform now. He just needs to go and take it. Because the platform is there. He is at Manchester City. Manchester City will be fighting, will be challenging for every single trophy, at every single season.

"It is down to him how he is going to look after himself, how he is going to prepare for different dynamic of the season.

"Because at the moment, Jack will have another challenge as well; he only played in the Premier League and in some club games, but now he has to adjust to more travelling, with the European games, more games, more intensity, more demand.

"So, this is something that he has to adjust. But now he has the platform. If he can manage to use it, anything is reachable for this boy."

Forging a role in the team is another challenge, with Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden last season often taking up the left-sided positions Grealish likes to occupy.

But Petrov said: "He has got the ability to fit in any position.

"Pep Guardiola is a completely different manager from anybody else; he gets the quality of the player and he uses it in a completely different way.

"I could give you a premier example with Foden. Everybody says that the Foden position is in the middle and he plays on the left, the wide left, and the wide right.

"So, Jack Grealish will be the same. [Guardiola] will just develop and teach Jack Grealish to play in a number of positions.

"Can Jack Grealish adjust to that? He can. Certainly. Because he has got the ability, he has got the knowledge and the awareness to do those positions.

"I believe when Pep Guardiola spoke to Jack Grealish, he would have told him how to play number of positions, how to develop his skills, his ability, but also how to fight to be one of the best players in the world.

"And I believe that was what Jack was wanting: somebody to tell him that he is going to be in the spotlight, people will be talking about him.

"He needed more persuasion. That was what he needed. Just to show him that he can fight to be one of the best."

Jack Grealish could make his Manchester City debut from the bench in Saturday's Community Shield at Wembley and the British record signing could have a key role to play over the opening weeks of the season with Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne still sidelined.

Grealish completed his £100million switch from Aston Villa to Premier League champions City on Thursday.

The 25-year-old playmaker's Wembley cameos from the bench became one of the most anticipated features of England's run to the Euro 2020 final and he will resume that role at the national stadium this weekend, having only returned to training from a post-tournament break this week.

"He's not ready to start at all, he was one week training alone but he'll travel with us to settle with the team and he will be on the bench and we’ll see what happens," Guardiola said.

"After we'll see what happens but from the beginning, no way."

Next weekend's Premier League opener against Tottenham, which is set to be played out against the backdrop of City's pursuit of Spurs striker Harry Kane, might be a different matter, given Foden and De Bruyne are still nursing respective foot and ankle complaints following their European Championship exploits.

"Phil Foden will still be out for a while. He had a tough injury with the national team in the last few days [of Euro 2020] and unfortunately could not play the final," Guardiola said.

"You have to be careful with this injury because if we don't [take precautions] it will be longer.

"Kevin still is out. I think he will come back a little bit sooner or quicker than Phil apparently but both still out for a while."

De Bruyne was named PFA Players' Player of the Year for the second successive season as City regained the Premier League and retained the EFL Cup in 2020-21, which they concluded with a 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.

The Belgium superstar, who penned a long-term contract extension running until 2025 in May, scored six goals and supplied 12 Premier League assists. Those came from 80 chances created, 19 of which were classed as "big chances" by Opta.

Joao Cancelo crafted the next most opportunities in City's squad with 45, meaning Grealish (81 chances created, 14 big chances, 10 assists in the Premier League in 2020-21) could instantly have a critical role to play in De Bruyne's absence.

Grealish has frequently voiced his admiration for the 30-year-old and Guardiola is in a similar position when it comes to a player he has long coveted.

"The first time I saw him playing," he replied when asked for the moment he decided he wanted to sign Grealish, noting the attacking midfielder's ability to control the tempo of the play – a quality Guardiola has frequently described as being vital in his teams.

"But then it wasn't possible, you have the squad and we had to invest in other parts as those parts were weaker. But especially when I saw him on TV.

"I said, 'that guy controls the tempo'. I love when he has the ball, he stops before the dribble and all the opponents stop as well. He controls the tempo and rhythm, when he accelerates and decelerates the action.

"And then especially when [City] played against him - the physicality, the special mentality of how he fought against the opponents, against our players. He said, 'I'm here'.

"Especially Txiki [Begiristain, City's director of football]. Txiki was completely in love with him and that's why we decided to try."

From Saturday onwards, Grealish will begin the work of trying make City's fans fall similarly head over heels.

As Jack Grealish begins training at the Etihad Campus and Harry Kane continues not training in Florida, it is worth remembering Pep Guardiola left a warning in plain sight that Manchester City would be prime movers and shakers in this year's transfer market.

Speaking to Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport ahead of May's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea, Guardiola pondered the ingredients needed for sustained success, having already lifted three of the past four Premier League titles on offer.

"Did you have the same squad when you won your sixth Premier League as you did your first one?" he asked former Manchester United defender Ferdinand.

"You have to shake, you have to move. With the same guys, it is almost impossible. We change. After defeats or a win, we change."

Such are the talents at Guardiola's disposal within the City squad, the £100million British record outlay to secure Grealish brought plenty of derision. Kane will cost more and, should any offer pass muster with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, it will be the same story.

But the City boss knew well of what he spoke and who he was speaking to. In 2002, Ferdinand joined United from Leeds United for a British record £30m. That deal usurped the £28.1m fee Alex Ferguson required to bring in Juan Sebastian Veron from Lazio a year earlier. In 2004, United made Wayne Rooney (£27m) the most expensive teenager in world football.

Even as the great 1998-99 United team went on to win the subsequent two Premier Leagues, Ferguson decided he had to shake. He had to move. Despite the successes of Arsene Wenger's Arsenal and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea at the start of this century, this thirst to improve from a position of strength meant United were able to dominate again.

LEGACY SIGNINGS

Comparisons to Ferguson will no doubt grate for plenty of the City faithful, but geography and the scale of Guardiola's achievements to date – eight major honours in the past four seasons – mean they are easy to reach for.

The former Barcelona coach became the first manager to retain the Premier League since the great Scot and, as he looks to repeat that feat, another Fergusonism has been laid at his door.

Last season, some observers contended Guardiola had built his second great City side. Team building and re-building was a perfected art form at United in the 1990s and 2000s and the shorter tenures of the modern era mean today's elite coaches are rarely called upon to accomplish such a tall task.

Guardiola certainly fitted the contemporary template at Barca and Bayern Munich, working with bristling intensity for four and three seasons respectively before standing down amid a sense that parties on both sides of the player/coach divide were burnt out to some extent.

You only needed to study the City manager on the touchline as a team featuring a crop of youth team players won recent friendlies against Preston North End, Barnsley and Blackpool to see plenty of that intensity remains. But the combination of ideal working conditions under old Barcelona allies Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano along with the lack of either Camp Nou's tumultuous politics or ex-playing grandees as at Bayern have persuaded the 50-year-old that Manchester is a place to burnish his legacy with longevity.

A contract extension penned in November last year means Guardiola is set to remain City boss until June 2023, by which point he will have completed seven seasons.

Club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero departing at the end of last term means only captain Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling remain from the pre-Guardiola years and the latter two signed a year before his arrival when City's direction of travel was fairly well signposted.

Grealish's arrival and the potential capture of Kane for another nine-figure outlay feels like a significant pivot point in a way that 2020-21, with its inverted full-backs, false-nines and off-the-cuff solutions, did not. A new chapter begins with Saturday's Community Shield encounter against Leicester City at Wembley.

GUARDIOLA'S CITY 2.0

Guardiola's third Premier League title and fourth consecutive EFL Cup did not tell the story of a new team being methodically put together. From the point City lost 2-0 at Tottenham last November, which left them 11th in the Premier League with 12 points from eight games, it was a tale of shrewd adjustment and pragmatism within the manager's signature style.

"I said we have to come back to our first principle. We started to rebuild and reconstruct the team," Guardiola said. "We had success in the past and [we had to] come back on our positional play, move the ball quicker, do more passes, stay more in position, run less with the ball."

City adapted better than any other Premier League side to the rigours of pandemic football. The effective pressing that is a hallmark of all Guardiola's sides was in evidence – 377 high turnovers and 80 shots from high turnovers (open play sequences that begin within 40 metres of the opposition goal) were the best numbers in the Premier League.

This was despite City allowing 11.5 passes per defensive action (PPDA), putting them joint-sixth in a category headed up by Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds Untied and their rabid pressing (9.3 PPDA).

The conclusion to be drawn here is that City picked their moments judiciously rather than relentlessly harrying opponents. Even as their press faltered during their meek 2019-20 title defence, their PPDA was 10.1.

In possession they were similarly methodical. City's direct speed – the metres per second they progressed upfield in open play – was the slowest in the Premier League. Opta's figure of 1.1 direct speed for the champions in 2020-21 compares to 1.4 when they won the league with 100 points for the first time under Guardiola in 2017-18 and 1.3 when the fought tooth and nail with Liverpool to retain it.

Alongside the key addition of talismanic centre-back Ruben Dias, slowing down in this manner helped City to be more defensively solid, although there was a price paid at the other end of the field.

Their goals (83) and shots on target (216) in the Premier League were lower than every campaign since Guardiola's initial trophy-less outing in 2016-17. City's 599 shots overall were the least of his tenure and down form 745 in 2019-20, they registered 68.9 for expected goals (xG) having been between 80 and 94 for the three prior campaigns.

Despite their array of creative midfield talent, City made 1,164 passes into the opposition box, having never clocked below 1,300 in the Guardiola era. In 2018-19, they made 1,522.

This was largely not too much of a problem, of course, but the manner in which City subsided to Chelsea after Kai Havertz scored the only goal in Porto was a concern. Thomas Tuchel's team saw out a 1-0 win in relative comfort and City's xG of 0.45 was their second lowest in any match managed by Guardiola.

JACKED UP ATTACK

Those initial title wins for Guardiola in England featured a forward line with the electrifying wing talents of Leroy Sane and Sterling to the fore.

Sane is now at Bayern Munich and, after the mid-season tweaks last term, Sterling struggled and lost his place as a locked-in starter. Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez generally started either side of a false nine as the importance of players being able to provide the "extra pass" became a Guardiola mantra.

Sterling returns reinvigorated by a fabulous Euro 2020 but Grealish is no more of a direct Sane replacement than Ferran Torres was a year ago. The qualities of the England playmaker and those of his international captain Kane suggest Guardiola is keen to keep the control of 2020-21 and bolt on increased attacking efficiency.

Despite missing 12 matches through injury, Grealish supplied 10 Premier League assists last season. De Bruyne (12) and Kane (14) were two of the three players above him, with the Spurs striker topping the league charts in terms of goals and assists.

Grealish edged De Bruyne by 81-80 in terms of chances created, while his advantage was 70-58 when it came to chances created from open play. City's record signing also edged De Bruyne in terms of expected assists (xA) with 6.52 against 6.21, indicating the high quality of chances his passes created.

Since the departures of David Silva and Sane, the creative burden has arguably rested too heavily upon De Bruyne. Joan Cancelo (45) and Mahrez (44) were the next best in the City squad for chances created, while the Belgian maestro created 19 of what Opta class as 'big chances'. That put him second only to Bruno Fernandes (20) in the division but none of his team-mates hit double figures. Grealish created 14 such opportunities.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

"I think everyone knows how much I admire Kevin and it's going to be a dream come true to play alongside him," Grealish said in his interview with City's in-house media channel on Thursday.

Without Silva and Sane's axis down the left channel, De Bruyne's role at City changed last season, with Guardiola granting him a broader midfield brief, as well as rotating the 30-year-old and Bernardo Silva as his two main false-nine options.

As a result, his touches on the right-hand side of the opposition half – in the spaces he roves to deliver those "score me!" crosses – were down by an average of 7.2 per 90 minutes when compared to 2019-20, when De Bruyne supplied a record-equalling 20 Premier League assists.

He made more touches in central areas and averaged 4.6 more per 90 on the left hand side, where Grealish likes to operate.

A report by The Athletic stated Guardiola intends to use Grealish as an option in the left-sided number eight position within his 4-3-3, one often occupied by Ilkay Gundogan as the Germany international enjoyed the most prolific goalscoring season of his career.

Grealish would provide a different threat, not least with his exceptional dribbling ability. His 60 carries ending with a shot at goal last season were the best in the division, one ahead of Kane. Of those, 37 were created chances for team-mates and the extent to which the 25-year-old occupies defenders should free up De Bruyne to thrive where he can deliver those balls that strikers love – not to say his delivery from the left is especially shabby.

"When I watch De Bruyne play he's a special, special player and some of the balls I see him put in for City are just a striker's dream if I'm honest," Kane told Gary Neville's Overlap podcast in May, demonstrating his aptitude for subtlety is not on a par with his goal poaching.

"He's an outstanding player with the ball, off the ball, pressing, but his delivery is as good as I've ever seen to be honest."  

Should Kane follow Grealish in realising his De Bruyne dream, Guardiola will field a team retaining the control that squeezed the competition last season and bolstered by a goal threat at least equal to his initial City configuration.

If he can knit it all together, and history suggests a very decent record in that regard, it represents a chilling prospect for the rest of the elite in England and Europe.

Pep Guardiola insists the ball is in Tottenham's court with regards to Manchester City's potential move for Harry Kane.

City's interest in Kane is clear, with the Premier League champions determined to sign the England captain – they had an offer understood to be in the region of £100million turned down during the European Championships.

Kane, too, is eager to make the switch from north London to Manchester, with Spurs' talisman having failed to report to pre-season training earlier this week in an apparent attempt to force through a move.

Reports suggest Tottenham will refuse to do business, however, insisting their talisman is not to sale to a Premier League competitor.

City have already smashed the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish, whose £100m move from Aston Villa was confirmed on Thursday, but Guardiola says Tottenham will ultimately make the decision on Kane's future.

"He's a player for Tottenham Hotspur. If Tottenham don't want to negotiate, it's finished," Guardiola, who also dismissed any possibility of a move for free agent Lionel Messi, told a news conference ahead of the Community Shield clash with FA Cup holders Leicester City.

"If they are open to negotiating, I think not just Man City but many clubs in the world want to try to sign him – we are not an exception – but it depends on Tottenham.

"It's different from Jack. Jack had a release clause. Harry Kane is an exceptional, extraordinary striker, no doubts about that. Of course we are interested, but he is a Tottenham player and if they don't want to negotiate there is nothing more to say. If they want to, we will try."

 

Ironically, City's first Premier League outing sees them travel to Tottenham on August 15.

It is not just incomings that City have to consider as the new season gets underway, though, with the champions also needing to manage some players who wish to try their hand elsewhere.

Several players have been linked with moves away, and Guardiola confirmed as such, though named only Bernardo Silva as a player who definitely wants to leave.

"Not just Bernardo, there are two, three or four players that want to leave but they are our players under contract and when they bring some offer and their agents come here and they want to leave we are open to discuss absolutely everything, but it depends on them," he added.

"Otherwise, they will continue training really well, they will stay here and I will decide if they play or don't play.

"The players, for what happened in the previous seasons, who want to leave know the door is open because we don't want anyone here unsatisfied. But they have to bring [an offer from a club]. Otherwise, they will stay here."

LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid have been touted as a possible destination for Portugal playmaker Silva, who joined City from Monaco in 2017.

Pep Guardiola insists Lionel Messi is not part of Manchester City's transfer plans after the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's sensational exit from Barcelona.

Messi was widely expected to sign a new deal at Camp Nou this week, to prolong a career-long association with Barca after his previous terms expired in June.

However, the club issued a statement on Thursday stating "financial and structural obstacles" – relating to both the Blaugrana's parlous financial state and LaLiga's strict economic controls – prevented Messi from signing a contract to which he had already agreed.

City were widely understood to be Messi's preferred destination when he attempted to leave Barcelona 12 months ago, but Paris Saint-Germain are viewed as the frontrunners this time around.

That impression was only heightened after Guardiola ruled out a reunion with his former protege, insisting City would proceed with the transfer plans that saw £100million man Jack Grealish become their record signing on Thursday.

"We have spent £40m on Jack Grealish - 100 we pay and 60 we won last year." Guardiola said, in one of several reference to the £60m boost his transfer kitty has received from City selling academy and loan players.

"He'll have the number 10 because we were incredibly convinced with Jack Grealish and were convinced that Leo would continue at Barcelona.

"Right now [signing Messi] is not in our thoughts, absolutely not."

Messi ascended to his place at the top of world football under Guardiola's guidance between 2008 and 2012, winning LaLiga on three occasions and the Champions League twice among a host of honours.

"It was a surprise for everyone, me included. President [Joan] Laporta was clear on the reason why," said Guardiola, who was speaking ahead of Saturday's Community Shield meeting with Leicester City at Wembley.

"They'd both like to continue. When you have €487m losses in one year the decision is made, unfortunately.

"As a supporter I'd love to him to have finished there but the club is not sustainable. What's happened is not good there and that's why they arrived in those terms [of Messi leaving].

"As a fan, incredible gratitude for the most extraordinary player I've ever seen in my life. Much more than for the titles he won for Barcelona, for what he did for me, to help me to become a better manager, to go to Munich and England.

"We won a lot, more than that is the incredible about of emotions and feelings to be in front of the TV watching what he can do with the ball with his mates in one football game. Day by day, game by game he did something unique."

As it stands, Messi's final appearance in a Barcelona shirt will be a 2-1 home loss to Celta Vigo as LaLiga slipped away last season.

Guardiola hopes a more fitting goodbye can be arranged.

"Hopefully one day we can properly have the best farewell game ever, because he deserves it," he added. "His contribution helped to take this club to another level, to dominate the world during a decade."

Aston Villa have confirmed they received a record £100million fee for Jack Grealish, who addressed the fans of his hometown club after leaving for Manchester City.

Premier League champions City announced the signing of Grealish on a six-year contract on Thursday.

A £100m fee – a record for a Premier League club – was widely reported, and Villa CEO Christian Purslow confirmed that amount in a message to fans.

City's bid – one of several approaches from numerous clubs – triggered a release clause agreed with Grealish at the start of last season, Purslow explained.

"Last summer, following interest from a number of clubs, we offered Jack a new contract to stay at the club, which he accepted with one proviso," Purslow said in a video message.

"Jack wanted to be certain that if at any point a Champions League club came in for him and Aston Villa was not in that competition, that we would not stand in his way.

"For that reason, we agreed to incorporate a so-called release clause into his contract.

"Our board set this clause at a value of £100m, knowing that would be by some way a record price for a British footballer and also a record fee for any player bought by a Premier League club.

"Put another way, we set the value at a level we hoped would not be met but which would reflect his truly unique value to Aston Villa.

"After a brilliant season for Jack, culminating in his performances at the Euros, a number of clubs expressed interest in signing him, initially at figures below the release clause. We simply refused to entertain those approaches.

"Finally, Manchester City notified us that they would be willing to pay the £100m it would take to trigger this clause.

"After many hours of discussions involving Jack, his family and his agent, during which we made clear our strong desire for him to stay at Aston Villa, Jack finally decided that he would like to go to City and instructed us to exercise his release clause as was his prerogative."

As Purslow spoke to the Villa fans on Thursday, so did boyhood fan Grealish, who had captained the side since 2019.

In a statement on his social media page, he said in part: "I'll always be a Villa fan – I love this club with all my heart and I hope you understand my reasons for seeking a new challenge."

Purslow explained how difficult the decision had been for Grealish, saying: "It was a highly emotional moment when he finally told me his decision, leaving me in no doubt how hard it had been for him to decide to leave our club, which he joined when he was six years old.

"Ultimately, he said it boiled down to wanting to play Champions League football now."

Indicating the mutual respect between player and board, Grealish's statement continued: "The club are in great hands, the manager, the lads, the new signings coming in – it's an exciting time to be a Villa fan."

Villa have already signed Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, three players for combined fees amounting to close to £100m.

Purslow confirmed the club had planned to replace Grealish – who scored six goals and added 10 assists last season – with a trio of stars rather than going for a single like-for-like buy.

"I want you all to be reassured that the board, Dean Smith, Johan Lange and I obviously knew this day might come and we have planned accordingly," he said.

"It was never our intention to replace Jack with one footballer, our strategy was to analyse and break down Jack's key attributes – his creativity, his assists, his goals – and to find these qualities and others in three forward players.

"In signing Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, we believe we have achieved this key objective and in doing so have also reduced an overdependency on one brilliant footballer."

Injuries limited Grealish to 26 league appearances last season, in which Villa had an outstanding 50 per cent winning record.

That dropped to 25 per cent in the 12 matches he missed, with their points-per-game return falling from 1.7 to 1.0.

Villa will hope their three lucrative signings will ensure those statistics are not repeated, with their creative talents set to boost a side that scored only 1.1 goals per game without Grealish.

Jack Grealish has completed his record transfer to Premier League champions Manchester City in a deal worth a reported £100million.

England international Grealish has spent his entire career at Aston Villa and has been captain of the club since 2019.

The 25-year-old played a pivotal role in helping Villa retain their top-flight status at the end of the 2019-20 season, after which he was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

He instead signed a new long-term contract but, after scoring six league goals and adding a further 10 assists across 26 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign, Grealish has now made the move north to Manchester.

Pep Guardiola's City have smashed the previous British transfer record – set by United's acquisition of Paul Pogba in August 2016 – to get the playmaker, who created 81 chances in the league last term.

Grealish has signed a six-year deal with City and said: "I am incredibly happy to have joined Manchester City.

"City are the best team in the country with a manager considered to be the best in the world – it's a dream come true to be part of this club.

"Over the past 10 seasons, they have won major trophies consistently. Pep coming here has taken them to the next level and the football this team plays is the most exciting in Europe.

"To play for Pep and learn from him is going to be special and it's something any top footballer would want.

"The facilities are amazing, and I honestly can't wait to get started, meet everyone and get playing."

His departure leaves a huge void at Villa, though they have been spending big this close season, bringing in Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings in lucrative moves.

Grealish is City's first major signing of the window, with the champions also strongly linked with signing Harry Kane from Tottenham.

England captain Kane failed to report back for pre-season training with Spurs as planned, following an extended break after Euro 2020.

The 28-year-old, who topped the Premier League scoring and assist charts last term, has outlined his intention to leave Tottenham and was reportedly the subject of a £100m offer from City earlier in the window.

Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain says record-breaking signing Jack Grealish is a "perfect match" with the Premier League champions.

Grealish, 25, completed a move to Pep Guardiola's men for a reported £100million fee on Thursday, making him the most expensive signing in Premier League history.

Guardiola's newest recruit adds further creativity to City's already handsome depth of attacking talent at the Etihad Stadium and Begiristain could not be happier with the acquisition of Aston Villa's former captain.

Begiristain, speaking to the club's official website upon the announcement of Grealish's signing, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be able to welcome Jack Grealish to Manchester City. He is an incredible talent.

"Jack's development over the past few seasons both for club and country has been plain for everybody to see. His natural talent together with his commitment to improve as a player, has seen him become one of the most exciting attacking players in world football today.

"I am certain that the fans are going to love seeing him in our team. Pep loves the way he plays, and we all feel he is an ideal fit for Manchester City. Our style and his style are a perfect match. I'm excited to watch him over the coming years."

Having been Villa's standout performer during their 2019-20 Premier League survival campaign, Grealish stepped up another notch the following season.

The England midfielder netted six times, recorded 10 assists and created 81 chances – putting him third in the league – in 26 appearances during the 2020-21 season.

He created 26 more chances from open play than any other team-mate and was just seven short of Bruno Fernandes' league-high 77.

Jack Grealish is, finally, a Manchester City player.

The Premier League champions have long been linked with the Aston Villa captain and, after weeks of speculation, a deal worth a reported £100million – a Premier League record – takes him to the Etihad Stadium.

Grealish, along with Harry Kane, reportedly represented City's top target as Pep Guardiola adds further creativity to an attacking unit which was already the envy of European football.

With the deal complete, Stats Perform has assessed what Grealish will bring to his new club.

THE NUMBERS

Grealish played 26 times in the league last season, missing 12 games towards the end of the campaign due to a shin injury.

He scored six times, adding 10 assists. His 70 chances created from open play was 26 more than any other Villa player, and only seven shy of Bruno Fernandes' league-leading 77.

When counting chances created in total, including from set plays, Grealish (81) ranked third in the league, behind Mason Mount (87) and Fernandes (95), though they played 10 and 11 games more than the Villa captain respectively.

Grealish outscored his expected goals tally of 4.65, while only Harry Kane (14), Kevin De Bruyne (12) and Fernandes (12) supplied more assists.

The playmaker, who generally featured on the left flank for Villa, attempted 110 dribbles, tallying up a success rate of 59.09 per cent, the seventh-best out of Premier League players to attempt 100 or more dribbles.

 

HOW HE WILL FIT IN

Capable of playing centrally or wide, Grealish will add another high-quality, versatile option to Guardiola's already packed squad. His 81 chances created leads the way out of City and Villa players from last term, with De Bruyne (80) a close second.

No Villa or City player attempted or completed more dribbles than Grealish, whose ability to carry the ball into dangerous positions and then release a timely pass will surely be a big draw for Guardiola, though he will want sharp, snappy passing to be brought into the midfielder's game.

Based on City's current options, Grealish would likely be competing with De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez – though several of those players have been linked with moves away – for a place in the team, either as a central midfielder or a wide attacker in the champions' preferred 4-3-3 system.

Of that sextet, only De Bruyne played more passes, including crosses, into the penalty area (239) than Grealish. However, he was some 90 ahead, while playing one game less.

Grealish's shot count of 50 ranked him fifth out of those seven players, with his shot conversion rate of 12 per cent also the fifth-best.

De Bruyne (7.4 per cent from 80) and Silva (7.14 per cent from 28) had a lower conversion percentage, though logic would suggest Grealish will have more opportunities to shoot in a City team that managed 599 attempts last season, 79 more than Villa's total.

 

HOW WILL VILLA MANAGE?

Villa had already gone some way to mitigating the damage a potential transfer would cause, with Emiliano Buendia – a creative fulcrum for Norwich City last season – arriving earlier in the transfer window.

Ashley Young has made a return to Villa Park on a free transfer from Serie A champions Inter, while Villa also made several bids for Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe before the 20-year-old signed a new deal with the Gunners.

Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen's flying winger, was confirmed as a Villa player on Wednesday, meanwhile.

The Jamaica international scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists in 40 appearances last season, and his arrival could certainly soften the blow somewhat, though there is a chance he may need time to adapt from the Bundesliga.

Bailey created 63 chances in total, with 11 of these classed as 'big chances' – Grealish, by comparison, created 14 such opportunities in league football in 2020-21.

And Bailey's arrival was quickly followed by that of Danny Ings, a shock recruit from Southampton. The England forward has scored 31 non-penalty goals in the Premier League over the past two seasons, a tally only topped by Mohamed Salah (32) and Kane (35).

While Villa will still have to adapt without Grealish, they could also yet pursue significant upgrades elsewhere in the squad as Dean Smith looks to push for European qualification. Norwich's Todd Cantwell and Southampton and England midfielder James Ward-Prowse have been linked.

City, meanwhile, have signed one of English football's best talents, with Grealish having the opportunity to head into his prime years at one of Europe's leading clubs.

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