Jack Grealish hopes to transfer the freedom he feels in an England shirt to Manchester City having admitted he “played a bit safe” at times following last year’s £100million switch.
The 26-year-old established himself as a Three Lions fan favourite last summer thanks to his swagger and fearlessness on the pitch and down-to-earth nature away from it.
Grealish helped Gareth Southgate’s men reach the Euro 2020 final before City made him the most expensive English player in history, triggering the eye-watering buyout clause at boyhood club Aston Villa.
The attacking midfielder ended his first season at the Etihad Stadium as a Premier League champion but many of his club performances lacked the pizzazz shown in his 20 minute cameo in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Germany.
Grealish’s name was chanted by the away fans before his introduction at the Allianz Arena, where the substitute injected new life into Southgate’s side.
“That’s what the manager asked me to do – go on and be myself and try and create and that’s what I did,” he said.
“I feel sometimes when I’m here I can try and play with as much freedom as possible. I felt like I did that today.”
Asked if he has played with more freedom for country than club, Grealish said: “I do think that, yeah. I feel at times I’ve played a bit safe at City but when I come here I feel like even in training I feel like I train really well, score goals, get assists and whatnot.
“When I come on the pitch… it’s hard to explain. I do feel like I play with a lot more freedom here and hopefully I can transfer that into my club football and keep on improving.”
Ever honest Grealish acknowledges the differences under “more structured” Pep Guardiola at City and Southgate’s England, but believes the answer lies within as he looks to “get more goal involvements” next season.
The 26-year-old says he feels “happier” after winning the Premier League, saying it was “a little bit of relief off my shoulders” following his high-profile move and something to celebrate.
Grealish certainly did that judging by the videos of the star that went viral online before linking up with England for June’s four Nations League fixtures.
He said: “I didn’t speak to (Guardiola at the end of the season). We had a laugh and a joke about certain stuff, that’s the game, just stuff about ourselves, and obviously I’ll speak to him next year when I get back, but I’m fine, honestly, I’m enjoying myself at City.
“I love coming away here honestly, and I’ve said so many times, I think sometimes, especially the manager, people are too harsh on him. I feel like, last game for example, we lose the first game in I don’t know how long it was, a bit of palaver, and it’s like we’ve lost a game, it happens. You know.
“And one thing I can say he’s done, when we come away here, everyone loves it – from the staff to the players. We all get on like a family and I feel like that’s why we’ve been so successful over the last couple of years and even before I was in the squad, at tournaments.”
Grealish will surely win his 23rd cap when Euro 2020 final foes Italy come to Molineux on the back his swashbuckling substitute performance in Munich.
“There’s so many talented players in that dressing room, especially in my position,” he said of the fight for a starting role. “I think there’s the most. Even the players that aren’t in the squad. The likes of Jadon (Sancho) and Marcus (Rashford), even Phil (Foden).
“There’s so much talent, even at the moment there’s Bukayo (Saka) who’s had a brilliant season, Jarrod (Bowen), Raheem (Sterling) who’s already played brilliantly for England. I know it’s always going to be difficult to try and take my chance when it comes, keep training hard and keep training well and that’s what I’ve been doing so fingers crossed we can look forward as a team and hopefully there’s more minutes and more wins.”