Kevin De Bruyne has said Jack Grealish is an easy target for unfair criticism and believes his Manchester City teammate is judged more harshly simply because he is English. Grealish scored his first goal since May as City overcame Wolves at the end of a week in which his impact has been heavily scrutinised, leading Pep Guardiola to defend the England forward’s contributions.
Grealish was named in Gareth Southgate’s squad to face Italy on Friday and Germany the following Monday in the Nations League. Asked if Grealish is criticised more often because of his nationality, De Bruyne replied: “Yes. It is not about football. Outside of football, the focus is more on them [England players]. I understand because they are English and people tend to look more [at] 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.”
Grealish opened the scoring after 55 seconds in City’s 3-0 victory at Molineux and afterwards said the persistent commentary regarding his lack of goals and assists since joining the club in a record-breaking £100m deal from boyhood club Aston Villa was justified. In 28 appearances last season the 27-year-old scored three league goals, one fewer than the central defender Aymeric Laporte.
Guardiola pointed to Grealish’s price-tag as a factor in the fuss. “When you pay a lot for a transfer, they have to do incredible things,” the City manager said. “He has to be who he is, that is all. Good moments, bad moments everyone has. The important thing is: ‘I am Jack Grealish, I play like I am. I go there with a good mentality and try to do the best for myself to help all of us.’ That is all I want.”
De Bruyne said Grealish required time to adapt to different expectations as well as surroundings after his move. “With all due respect he was at Villa before and if you lose a game sometimes it is not the end of the world,” he added. “But if we lose a game it is different. We have to perform every week and win games. That is different and what he has had to adjust to. As long as we win the games and he is doing a good job for us, that is all that matters.”
Grealish was the subject of a bruising first-half challenge by Nathan Collins, which earned the Wolves centre-back a straight red card on 33 minutes. “It was sore,” Grealish said. “He caught me around my stomach. I spoke to him and he didn’t mean it, which is obviously fine. I went in for the tackle because if I do win the ball then I’m away and I think I would’ve been through [on goal].”