Jack Grealish is expected to be confirmed as Man City’s latest recruit any moment now.
The 25-year-old is set to become the first-ever £100million player of English football upon leaving his hometown club, Aston Villa.
Amid the speculation regarding the seismic transfer, football fans have engaged in a rather profound debate.
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Nobody doubts that Grealish is more likely to win trophies as a Man City player but the fact he’s a Birmingham-born, self-proclaimed Villa fan prompted some to question what truly matters in football.
Grealish could have committed his future to the Villains and worn the captain’s armband until retirement.
In this alternate universe, the talented playmaker may not have a particularly impressive trophy cabinet but he is adored like saint among his people, a hero almost without comparison.
There can be no doubt that fans reserve a special level of worship for players who devote themselves wholly to one club.
To Francesco Totti, one league title in 25 years with Roma is worth infinitely more than the six or seven La Liga crowns he may have won had he joined Real Madrid.
Matt Le Tissier ended his career without a single major honour but his status among Southampton fans is godly.
The problem is the benefits of a legacy left by Totti or Le Tissier, while special, are rooted in emotions and are therefore intangible.
It’s natural that some players, most players in fact, want something to show for their efforts, something solid.
The lure of medals is difficult to resist because an array of shiny trinkets stops people asking questions like ‘but what have you actually won?’ – questions that chip away at you.
Quantifiable success can help keep regrets from the door when a player has hung up their boots.
However, if most fans dug deep enough within themselves they would admit that football would be a better with a few more individuals cut from the same cloth as Totti.
It was notable how many fans of clubs like Leeds, Everton and Crystal Palace have expressed empathy with Villa fans in recent days, perhaps envisaging similar situations involving Kalvin Phillips, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Wilfried Zaha.
This specific transfer has become a wider discussion about the philosophical purpose of football, an extension of the conversation that came to fore during the European Super League debacle.
Football is often portrayed as a results business when in fact it is an entertainment business.
Without the emotional connection between fans, clubs and players, everything would fall apart.
And while nobody is suggesting Grealish to Man City will end football as we know it, it’s understandable that some believe such actions loosen a few screws.
It’s unfair to burden Grealish, or any other player for that matter, with something as weighty as football’s soul of course.
For him, it’s about the opportunity to play with some of the world’s best players and under arguably the best manager of his generation.
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It goes without saying that Grealish in a City shirt is mouthwatering prospect for Dream Team managers.
He averaged a goal involvement every 137 minutes in the Premier League last season and was hovering around the top of the midfielder rankings before a shin injury curtailed his campaign.
In terms of successful dribbles, fouls won and chances created, Grealish is among the very best European football has to offer.
Villa played brilliantly before Christmas last term but there’s no denying that City – who have won three out of the last four Premier League titles – represents a step up.
At £4.5m, Grealish is cheaper than soon-to-be team-mates Phil Foden (£5.5m) and Riyad Mahrez (£5.0m) but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him produce more points if he responds to Pep Guardiola’s demands swiftly.
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