Aston Villa have confirmed that Jack Grealish joined Manchester City after the Premier League champions triggered his £100 million release clause and the England international made clear his desire to play in the Champions League.
The 25-year-old, who will wear the No 10 shirt vacated by the departure of Sergio Aguero, completed his move to the Etihad on Thursday and has signed a six-year contract to play for Pep Guardiola’s side.
But Villa CEO Christian Purslow has shed light on the circumstances surrounding the move, confirming that the decision was out of the club’s hands due to an agreement and a clause inserted into the player’s contract last summer.
Purslow told VillaTV: “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, Jack wanted to be certain that if at any point a Champions League club came in for him and Aston Villa were not in that competition, that we would not stand in his way.
“For that reason we agreed to insert a release clause, 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 a record fee bought by a Premier League club.
“Put another way, we set the value at a value that we hoped would not be met but would reflect his truly unique value to Aston Villa.
“After a brilliant season for Jack, a number of clubs expressed an interest in signing him, initially below the release clause, we refused to entertain those approaches.
“Jack finally decided he would like to go to City and instructed us to exercise his release clause, as was his prerogative.
“It was a highly emotional moment, leaving me in no doubt how hard it had been for him to decide to leave our club, which he had joined when he was six years old. Ultimately he said it boiled down to playing Champions League football now.”
While Grealish has spoken of his delight at finalising his transfer, becoming the most expensive English player of all time.
After signing a six-year deal at the Etihad Grealish 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.”
A star at Villa Park last season, Grealish was instrumental in a much-improved campaign for Dean Smith’s side, at least until an injury late on in 2020/21, with those performances earning him a place in the England squad for Euro 2020. The creative attacker played five times at the tournament, starting once, and providing two assists along the way as the Three Lions reached the final.
He signed a new long-term contract with Villa last season, which tied him to the club through to 2025, but City’s huge bid has convinced the Midlands club to part ways with him and they have already taken steps to replace him with the signings of Emi Buendia from Norwich and, on Wednesday, Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen.
Grealish came through the academy at Villa and, aside from a short loan spell at Notts County as a youngster, has been at the club his entire career until now, playing over 250 times for them.
At international level he represented Republic of Ireland up until U21 level, when he switched to England, so far winning 12 senior caps.
He’ll now become part of Pep Guardiola’s Premier League-winning squad, where he’ll compete with the likes of international team-mates Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden for game time.