Manchester City: Who could leave to make room for Jack Grealish?

Paul Macdonald
Paul Macdonald Updated: 20 May 2021 11:26 BST 3 min read
Manchester City: Who could leave to make room for Jack Grealish?

Pep Guardiola has reportedly made signing Jack Grealish his top priority as he looks to rebuild Manchester City, following his decision to sign a new contract.

During negotiations over his new deal, Guardiola reportedly discussed multiple potential recruits with the City hierarchy including Lionel Messi and Harry Kane.

But he ultimately settled on Aston Villa captain Grealish as his main transfer target.

That was partly because the 25-year-old is seen as an achievable signing in the market but mainly because the former Barcelona boss is a huge admirer of his talents.

According to The Independent, Grealish is the player Guardiola believes can restore a spark to his City side amid their faltering bid to regain the Premier League title from Liverpool.

Grealish has scored four goals and added five assists in eight Premier League games for Aston Villa this season.

His 8.0 average rating per FootballCritic’s statistical model is the best in the league, while he was the highest-rated player outside of the big six in 2019-20 in a Villa team struggling to avoid relegation.

Guardiola is also said to have discussed the England international with star playmaker Kevin De Bruyne.

The Belgium international, who recently faced Grealish for his country, provided rave reviews and urged Guardiola to bring in a player Villa reportedly value at over £100million.

Who could leave Man City if Grealish signs?

While City’s shortcomings in the striker position have been highlighted whenever Sergio Aguero is out injured, they already have a squad packed with international talent in central and wide attacking midfield areas.

David Silva left at the end of last season to join Real Sociedad after 10 glorious years, while Leroy Sane joined Bayern Munich in July.

But there is likely to be at least one more high-profile exit if Jack Grealish is brought in at a huge cost.

Riyad Mahrez

Former Leicester City star Mahrez has been one of City’s poorer performers in the early stages of this season, registering one goal and one assist in six league starts for an average rating of 6.8.

He was productive last season with 11 goals and nine assists from 33 top-flight outings (21 starts) as he became a more important part of Guardiola’s plans.

But with Mahrez still not an automatic first pick and turning 30 in February, the likes of Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Ferran Torres all look more important to City’s future.

If Grealish arrives too, it becomes increasingly difficult for Mahrez to get regular game time without disrupting the development of players City need to keep as Guardiola builds a new team.

Bernardo Silva

Another attacking midfielder who may be vulnerable is Bernardo Silva.

While approaching his peak at the age of 26, the Portugal international has had a miserable start to 2020-21 at the worst time as Guardiola ponders who will be central to his new era.

Bernardo is yet to register a goal or an assist in six appearances. It is a small sample size, but 0.24 key passes P90 is an abysmal return (2.27 last season), while his expected goals P90 and expected assists P90 (0.06 and 0.01) highlight his lack of effectiveness.

Now in his fourth year with City, he has never scored or assisted more than seven goals in a single top-flight campaign and while 2019-20 was his best season to date (7.2 average rating), either he or Mahrez look most likely to depart.

Phil Foden

A less likely outcome is Phil Foden deciding to move on. Which would be a move City will be desperate to avoid, especially after allowing Jadon Sancho to slip through their grasp.

City will be eager to ensure homegrown Foden does not lose patience as he waits to become their main man.

Foden appeared destined to join De Bruyne and Sterling among City’s leaders after Silva’s exit, only to be hit with constant rumours over Messi and now suggestions Grealish is to become a centrepiece under Guardiola.

Guardiola is unlikely to willingly allow a 20-year-old with a huge future in the game to leave and Foden could still play alongside his England team-mate Grealish and De Bruyne.

But with only 16 career Premier League starts to his name, Foden would be right to wonder when he will be given the platform to display his talents every week as a core piece of Guardiola’s best XI.

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