Aston Villa, in all fairness, have done their part to help City explain why Grealish has cost so much. They simply explained that £ 100million was the value of a release clause inserted into Grealish’s contract, at his request, if a Champions League club matched that figure. City did and he signed.
Pep Guardiola continued with this explanation, telling media that the release clause made Grealish a relatively straightforward signing, as opposed to their interest in Harry Kane, who will lead to much smarter negotiations. He also tried to describe Grealish as costing just £ 40million, due to City’s £ 60million in sales and admissions this year, although that should be a separate conversation, rather than pulling straight out Grealish’s fees.
In short, if City wanted Grealish it was £ 100million and nothing less. There will be plenty of attention on the new number ten, as England’s £ 100million first player, and the inevitable criticism of City’s spending will sharpen their knives as Pep Guardiola’s spending nears £ 100million since 2016.
You doubt Chelsea will have to make the same efforts to justify a similar fee, despite the hundreds of millions spent on the players themselves in recent years – often for more than City paid.
City were prepared to spend a lot under Guardiola but mainly limited their spending to under £ 60million per player while eight other transfers to the Premier League went to fetch more money. City have emphasized cautious transfer activity and walked away from several deals that would have seen the sales club hold them in ransom and set an unwanted precedent.
Now they have potentially lost that reputation by going from the region of £ 60million to £ 100million, despite the smart work done this week to keep those charges down.
So it pays to get an extra boost without any action on their part as Chelsea look to re-sign Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan.
Lukaku is said to be set to return to Stamford Bridge for a fee of around £ 97.5million, potentially reaching over £ 100million in add-ons.
On the one hand, City might fear that a world-class striker will join a direct rival, but they will be quietly delighted to see another club break through the £ 100million mark to sign a player. They will no longer need to justify their own expenses so much, as another club also “inflated” the market within days of Grealish’s deal.
It will show skeptics that the best players, signed to win titles, will cost nine figures these days, whoever pays them. This is the going rate for any club, not just City.
There is also an advantage for Grealish, who will see his pressure reduced if there is another £ 100million man in the Premier League – this time someone who didn’t even have a release clause. This should allow Grealish to get on his knees, get used to City and play football without focusing so much on his fees.
Of course, that conversation will reappear if Harry Kane is signed before the deadline and sets the record again, but he’s another player with a nine-figure valuation that it is up to City to match. And now City can make a direct comparison with an elite striker for £ 100million.
Chelsea will be stronger for signing Lukaku, but they could unwittingly put pressure on City as the Blues took the advantage of stealing an advantage in what is set to be a hugely competitive title race.