Grealish to Man City: Pogba, Maguire and the most expensive Premier League buys of all time

By Sports Desk August 05, 2021

Pep Guardiola's quest to conquer Europe and continue domestic domination with Manchester City has seen him sign Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish in a deal reportedly worth £100million.

Grealish becomes the most expensive signing in Premier League history after being prised away from Villa Park, where he had spent his entire career and captained his boyhood club since 2019.

The England international, who helped the Three Lions to a first major final appearance in 55 years at Euro 2020, has regularly been linked away from Villa but committed his future after rumoured interest from Manchester United, signing a long-term contract in 2020.

In the 2020-21 campaign, the 25-year old contributed with six league goals and 10 assists, while also creating 81 chances across 26 appearances for the Villains.

Dean Smith will no longer have the playmaker to call upon, though, as Guardiola has demolished the previous Premier League transfer record – set by Paul Pogba's return to United in 2016 – to secure Grealish's services.

After City's record-breaking acquisition of Grealish, Stats Perform looks at the other most expensive signings in English top-flight history.

PAUL POGBA – Juventus to Manchester United, £89.3m

Jose Mourinho's first transfer window with the Red Devils saw the France midfielder return to Old Trafford in a then-world record transfer.

Since making that reunion in 2016-17, only Marcus Rashford (78) and Anthony Martial (64) have been involved in more Premier League goals for United than Pogba (57 – 28 goals, 29 assists), while the midfielder has created more top-flight chances (207) than any other player for the club during this period.

He scored and assisted one apiece for France at Euro 2020, while only Antoine Griezmann (10) created more chances than Pogba's eight for Les Bleus.

HARRY MAGUIRE – Leicester City to Manchester United £80m

United broke the world transfer record for a defender in 2002 when they signed Rio Ferdinand for £30m and 17 years later they acquired Maguire for more than double that fee.

The centre-back endured a tricky start to life in Manchester, however, his quality eventually shone through as he strung together 71 consecutive appearances for United.

Despite missing the last four games of the 2020-21 campaign, Maguire ranked second in the Premier League for aerial challenges won (135) and fifth for successful duels (203) before featuring prominently at Euro 2020 for England.

 

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Southampton to Liverpool, £75m

Jurgen Klopp, albeit under contentious circumstances, convinced Van Dijk to move away from St. Mary's Stadium in December 2017.

The commanding Netherlands captain guided Liverpool to their sixth Champions League success in 2018-19 before playing a key role as the Reds ended their 30-year wait for an English title.

Van Dijk's absence severely affected their Premier League defence last term. Klopp's men have won 75.8 per cent of their league matches with Van Dijk in the side since his debut in January 2018, a figure that falls to 54.3 per cent in his absence.

 

ROMELU LUKAKU – Everton to Manchester United £75m

The Belgium forward never settled in at Old Trafford and left after two seasons, despite converting 42 times in 96 games for United.

Lukaku scored twice in United's stunning Champions League last-16 comeback victory over Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 before completing a switch to Inter, where he helped Antonio Conte's men to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

During the title-winning campaign, Lukaku shunned doubts over his finishing as he converted almost one in four chances to bag 24 goals and improved his link-up play to form an effective partnership with Lautaro Martinez. Since his Inter debut only five players have scored more goals in Europe's top five leagues than Lukaku (64).

He has now been linked with a return to former club Chelsea in a deal which could shatter Grealish's new record.

 

JADON SANCHO – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United £73m

After leaving Manchester City in 2017 for Borussia Dortmund, Sancho found himself signing for the red half of Manchester four years later. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pursued Sancho for multiple transfer windows and finally got his man in the wake of England's Euro 2020 shoot-out heartbreak.

Since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, the 21-year-old has been directly involved in the joint-most goals of any English player across the top five European leagues (78), while he has played fewer minutes than Harry Kane – also on 78 – in this period.

Sancho also became the first Englishman to reach at least 10 assists for three consecutive seasons in Europe's top-five leagues since David Beckham, who achieved the feat between 1997-98 and 2000-01 for Alex Ferguson's United.

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  • Guardiola hails Grealish's 'perfect start' ahead of possible Villa reunion Guardiola hails Grealish's 'perfect start' ahead of possible Villa reunion

    Pep Guardiola praised Jack Grealish for "starting perfectly" at Manchester City but is unsure if the playmaker will be fit to feature against former club Aston Villa on Wednesday,

    Grealish has featured in 15 of City's 21 matches since joining the club from Villa in a £100m British record transfer from Aston Villa in August, starting 13 of those.

    The 26-year-old was an unused substitute for the derby win over Manchester United on November 6 and has not played since due to a knock sustained on England duty.

    He returned to training on Monday and will be monitored ahead of Wednesday's clash at Villa Park, where he spent 20 years – seven as a first-team regular – prior to joining City.

    Grealish has a lot of work to do in order to repay his hefty price tag, but Guardiola has been pleased with the attacking midfielder's impact thus far when fit and available.

    "He has started perfectly," Guardiola said of Grealish at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

    "It's easy because of our English players and the other guys here are nice people. He's played good but needs more time to settle." 

    Grealish has scored two goals and assisted three more this term, while his tally of seven big chances created is the joint-most of any City player alongside Joao Cancelo.

    However, the 3.15 chances Grealish has created per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season is down on the 3.34 managed in his final campaign with Villa.

    He is also attempting fewer dribbles (3.39 compared to 4.53) for City and is being fouled less frequently (down from 4.53 to 2.66), a sign that he is getting at opponents less.

    Guardiola puts down that down to the contrasting styles of City and next opponents Villa.

    "If you analyse games, he hasn't played badly. The way we play and our expectations are different to Villa," Guardiola said.

    "He did incredibly well at Villa. His commitment to the club to stay and get promoted was amazing. 

    "Now he has come back from the international break injured. Hopefully he comes back and step by step finds his form. 

    "We have six, seven months ahead of us. I don't think we will have to wait until next season to see the best Jack Grealish – I'm thinking this season."

    Providing an update on City's other recent absentees, Guardiola confirmed Kevin De Bruyne has returned a negative coronavirus test but has yet to train.

    Phil Foden remains doubtful having trained only once, while Ferran Torres is a long-term absentee and Aymeric Laporte is suspended.

    "All the people who have had coronavirus say it drains them and Kevin needs time to show his form," Guardiola said. 

    "Phil and Jack are still in the same situation. Maybe tomorrow they can play but not a lot of minutes – we're going to see after they train today.

    "The rest, we have just 14 or 15 players. But I trust this squad a lot. If one is out, another comes in.

    "December is the toughest month of the year for us and we are in trouble because we have so few players available."

    Wednesday's match at Villa Park will be the first managerial encounter between Guardiola and new Villa boss Steven Gerrard.

    Guardiola has lost just three of his 64 Premier League games against English managers, coming against Roy Hodgson (December 2018), Frank Lampard (June 2020) and Graham Potter (May 2021).

    Gerrard has won his first two Villa games since arriving from Rangers – no manager in the club's history has won their first three matches – and Guardiola is expecting a tough test in the Midlands.

    "He's managing in the Premier League, so he is already a good manager," Guardiola said. "I don't believe there's a manager in the Premier League, even the Championship, who isn't good. 

    "They can train good players in good clubs to punch for the titles. There are incredible managers in all aspects and maybe they win titles because they are lucky to train a good team.

    "I can imagine with a new manager everybody steps forward for training sessions and methodology to convince the manager. 

    "They have had two good results against tough teams like Brighton and Crystal Palace. It will be the toughest game possible tomorrow."

  • Ballon d'Or: Klopp bemused as his former Dortmund hitman Lewandowski misses out Ballon d'Or: Klopp bemused as his former Dortmund hitman Lewandowski misses out

    Jurgen Klopp has questioned what more Robert Lewandowski could have done to win the Ballon d'Or after the Bayern Munich striker missed out on the award.

    Lionel Messi scooped the accolade for a seventh time on Monday, but many felt this would be Lewandowski's time to take the glory.

    Klopp benefited from the brilliance of Lewandowski when both men were at Borussia Dortmund, with the Poland international scoring 103 goals before switching to Bayern.

    At club level, Lewandowski has scored 53 goals already in 2021, with six assists taking him to 59 goal involvements, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

    Messi sits fifth on that list (32 goals, 12 assists) but helped Argentina to win the Copa America, thereby winning one of the few trophies that had eluded him.

    That likely tipped the vote his way, with Messi's form since leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in August having so far been sketchy by his mercurial standards.

    Asked initially whether he was surprised there were six players who ranked higher than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Klopp said: "I was surprised to be honest, but it's not in my hands. If you think he should be higher up, then you'll have to convince your colleagues."

    Then Klopp turned his focus to Lewandowski, a player he once described as the best he has ever coached. Lewandowski was second to Messi for the coveted Ballon d'Or, which is voted for by journalists from across the world.

    The 33-year-old scored 41 Bundesliga goals last season, breaking a record for the most in the division that was previously held by Gerd Muller.

    "I think that you always can give it to Lionel Messi for the career he has and the footballer he is, all these kinds of things, but if you don't give it to Robert Lewandowski this time then it's quite tricky to get it at all," said the Liverpool boss.

    "And yes, Mo definitely should have been high up."

    Lewandowski would also have been a frontrunner in 2020, only for organisers France Football to cancel the awards due to the impact of the COVID-19 enforced break in the football year.

    He managed 57 goals involvements (45 goals, 12 assists) in 2020, which was 10 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (41 goals, 6 assists), who had the second-most in the elite leagues, and 12 ahead of Messi (26 goals, 19 assists).

  • Lukaku set for more minutes as Chelsea aim to rediscover scoring touch Lukaku set for more minutes as Chelsea aim to rediscover scoring touch

    Romelu Lukaku is ready to play more of a role for Chelsea in their Premier League clash with Watford, according to Thomas Tuchel.

    Lukaku played the final eight minutes plus stoppage time in Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday, having missed the previous four league games with an ankle injury.

    The Blues are just a point clear of defending champions Manchester City at the top of the table and could be leapfrogged by Pep Guardiola's men and Liverpool on Wednesday should they fail to claim all three points at Vicarage Road.

    But they look set to be boosted by increased involvement from Lukaku after he came through his cameo in the United game without incident.

    Speaking at his pre-match media conference, Tuchel said: "Romelu is pretty easy. He came on and continues to train. There's no reaction from his ankle. He is ready to progress in minutes and this is where he is."

    N'Golo Kante (knee), Ben Chilwell (knee) and Mateo Kovacic (thigh) are sidelined for Chelsea, who face last-minute calls on Reece James, Jorginho and Timo Werner after they all picked up knocks, though the trio did train on Tuesday.

    Chelsea were held by United despite having 24 shots to the Red Devils' three, the Blues scoring only once despite having an expected goals (xG) tally of 2.5, based on the chances they created. United had an xG of just 0.7.

    Tuchel will hope Lukaku can help Chelsea be more clinical but, asked if his forwards need to do more, he replied: "They try hard. Their contribution to our style of game, contribution to the high pressing is immense, we can see this in the data after the matches.

    "So we should maybe take into account that when they arrive with the chances maybe they don't arrive fully relaxed, sometimes they breathe hard when they arrive and maybe that costs us some precision.

    "But we have scored many goals before. This game I agree, we had a similar game in terms of chances and of course result against Burnley at home.

    "It's a good sign that we are not happy with when we draw against Man United when we have the feeling that we should have deserved more. 

    "We trust them, they have the quality to score for us. It's on us to bring them into positions from where it's possible for them to score and to do this as often as possible."

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