Jack Grealish has reacted to comparisons made by Jose Mourinho, who likened the England star to Portugal’s midfield immortal Luis Figo.
Grealish, 25, has emerged as one of Europe’s top playmakers in recent seasons, with the Aston Villa captain creating more chances than any other player across Europe’s top five leagues in 2020/21 prior to a shin injury sustained in mid-February.
Before that setback, which kept him out of action for 12 Premier League matches, Grealish had created a whopping 75 chances, more than Bruno Fernandes (68), Hakan Calhanoglu (who ultimately finished the season with the most) and Thomas Muller (56) at the time.
His preternatural talents have drawn praise across the board and culminated in his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020, with huge clamour from Three Lion supporters for the burgeoning Brummie to start on Friday against Scotland.
Such has been Grealish’s influence at Villa Park that Roma-bound Mourinho recently name-checked former Real Madrid and Barcelona midfielder Figo when discussing the ability of England’s creative gem, saying: “I don’t like making comparisons, especially with a Golden Ball winner, but Grealish reminds me of my Figo.
“Figo, I had him in different periods in my career but I had him in his last season as a player at Inter Milan and even in his last season he was like, ‘give me the ball and I will resolve the problems for you’.
“The way Grealish gets the ball and attacks people, gets fouls, gets penalties, he’s very powerful, I like him very much.”
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Grealish has since responded to the praise bestowed on him by Mourinho and reciprocated the compliments, saying the Portuguese coach is one of football’s most popular tacticians, before suggesting he would relish playing under him one day.
Grealish told talkSPORT: “I heard what Mourinho said, a lot of people sent me that.
“You try not to listen to too much, whether it’s good or bad. It’s always nice when people are speaking about you, especially someone like Jose Mourinho.
“He’s done so much in the game, he’s such a popular man in football and he’s not short of football knowledge.
“Luis Figo is someone who I looked up to when I was a kid. He was an unbelievable player, but the the main thing was it came from Mourinho, who is an unbelievable manager.
“He’s done unbelievable things in the game. Hopefully one day I could play under him.”
“I’m so desperate just to get on the pitch”
A few eyebrows were raised and one or two toes curled when Southgate announced his line-up for England’s Group D opener against Croatia on Sunday, with Jadon Sancho omitted from the squad altogether, Kieran Trippier selected at left-back, and Grealish shunned for two ‘defensive midfielders’.
As it turns out Southgate’s tactical gambit paid dividends as Croatia struggled to assert their authority at Wembley and England ground out a 1-0 win. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective, and now England fans are itching for Grealish to be unleashed in the final third and bring a bit of panache to the system.
Whether Southgate sticks or twists for the Scotland game remains to be seen, but Grealish detailed his ‘desperation’ just to get out on the pitch and experience tournament football.
He said: “I’m so desperate just to get on the pitch and prove to people just how good I am. These are the type of games that I thrive off.
“Not even just in this tournament, I’ve made a name for myself [in other big games] during my career. I’m desperate to be involved.
“But the main thing is the team get the three points and carry on our good start.”