British playmaker Jack Grealish has laughed at Graeme Souness’ criticism of his performances since joining Manchester City.
It’s been just over a year since the former Aston Villa captain moved to Etihad Stadium for £ 100m.
Grealish says that increased pressure and control is “integral” to representing City and England, with that mindset that perhaps explains why he was able to take Souness’ latest teasing in his stride.
The former Liverpool manager and captain said so this week the 27-year-old “is not a great player” and he should have improved more since he arrived at City, where he thought he would think faster and move the ball faster.
“I don’t know what his problem is with me,” Grealish said with a laugh. “He always says things about me! But I try not to read much of it.
“It’s hard to know when he’s on talkSPORT or Sky Sports, and sometimes he’s all over the training ground.
“Listen, he was obviously a great player and he won a lot, but I know he has a lot of things to… I don’t know what’s with what he says about me or what’s his problem. I know my skills.
“I know he used to say a lot of things about me that I didn’t move the ball faster, but when I play for a coach like Pep Guardiola and he tells me to keep the ball as much as possible and have balls to catch everywhere, that’s what which I will try to do.
“Of course I will always have people if I don’t play well (criticizing). Listen, I know inside of me, I always watch my games and stuff like that and I’m very critical of myself.
“I know there have been games, especially in the second half of last season, where I wasn’t at my best.
“Unfortunately for me, I went back in pre-season, got back in shape where I had a great pre-season and then I got injured in the second game.
“But from now on, I’ll just try to lower my head and try to regain that fitness because I know I’m not 100% yet. I think I’ve only played 90 minutes this season.
“But yeah, I think I’ll always have people behind me, but I just have to try and perform.”
Grealish seems to take it all in his stride, admitting that control “probably affects my family more than me”, having learned to deal with it over the years.
“It’s more if someone like my mother or father said it, I’d listen a lot more,” he said ahead of England’s Nations League clash in Italy on Friday.
“But, yeah, sometimes when people say it – whether it’s trolls on Twitter or Instagram or whatever – it doesn’t bother me at all.
“I think it’s just an integral part of what we have playing for the national team and playing for big clubs in England.
“I don’t think I’m the only one, I think there are quite a few. I think we just have to learn to deal with it.
“Obviously over time I have learned to deal with it.
“When I signed up for Man City and the price and the things that came with it, I knew it wasn’t all going to be laughs, unless I started like Erling Haaland did. I think it’s the only way not to be flogged!
“Of course I’m not going to sit here and say ‘nothing has ever affected me’ because sometimes it happens. I’m a 27 year old boy, so I had to learn to deal with it. “
Grealish was in the spotlight long before he became a champion due to some off-court behavior early in his career.
The playmaker’s professionalism was again called into question during the summer following his celebrations at the City title parade and subsequent holidays.
Grealish thinks the criticism is unfair but knows he has work to do to get the best for City and England.
“I’m just like a normal baby, you know?” He said. “I feel like I’m doing what a lot of other footballers do, but sometimes I think I get more attention when I’m on vacation in Ibiza or Las Vegas or something.
“After that I put up photos of myself while I was working. I don’t know if many people have talked about it.
“I tried to get back as fit as possible and I felt like I was. I saw the manager said this a couple of times about me.
“I know how I am and how professional I am and I hope I can get my performance back to where I was when I am playing at my best.
“I know how good I am when I’m at my best, so I hope I can catch it up and get my fitness back as quickly as possible.”