Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne believes teammate Jack Grealish gets more criticism than others because he is English.
Last summer Grealish became the most-expensive British signing when Man City paid Aston Villa £100m for his transfer but the Englishman underwhelmed in his first season with the champions. In 26 Premier League games last season Grealish scored just three goals and provided three assists, unable to make too much of an impact on Pep Guardiola’s side.
There has also been a lot of focus on Grealish’s personal life, with the 27-year-old often seen enjoying himself while not in the best form on the pitch, something that rarely seems to go down well with fans.
However, Grealish got off the mark for the season in Man City’s 3-0 win over Wolves at the weekend, opening the scoring after just 55 seconds. The former Villa man continued to terrorise the Wolves defence and was later on the receiving end of a high challenge from Nathan Collins which saw the Irishman sent off in the first half.
On top of his goal, Grealish created two chances, completing 94% of his 33 attempted passes and made 14 passes in the final third as well as four completed take-ons – the joint-most among his teammates.
Despite his form, Grealish continued to be picked for the England national team by Gareth Southgate and is once again in the squad for the Uefa Nations League fixtures against Italy and Germany as the Three Lions look to avoid relegation while also preparing for the World Cup.
And De Bruyne believes it is his nationality that has Grealish criticised more than foreign players.
“Yes. It is not about football. Outside of football, the focus is more on them [English players],” he said when asked if Grealish is criticised more for being English.
“I understand because they are English and people tend to look more what is happening. I feel like foreign players, for instance if you have a night out, we don’t really get checked that often.
“Whereas I feel if an English player goes out, it is always in the media somewhere. I think people are taking this on board also.
“What he does in his private life he does, nobody should care, but people do.”
De Bruyne also highlighted the difference in levels between Aston Villa and Man City which may also see Grealish underperform against his teammates.
“We work in a day and age where everyone talks just about goals and assists but there is a lot that goes on in football and we win a lot of games,” he added.
“If we win a lot of games, it means everyone is doing a good job otherwise it is not possible. I think for him playing forward and to start this way today makes it a little bit easier. He has been struggling with some pain and some injuries this year but he has been looking sharp and playing good for me.
“It comes with being a very good player. If you set certain standards for yourself, everyone is going to measure you to these standards. With all due respect he was at Villa before and if you lose a game sometimes it is not the end of the world. But if we lose a game it is different.
“We have to perform every week and win games. That is the difference and what he has had to adjust to. As long as we win the games and he is doing a good job for us, that is all that matters. Obviously you want to score and get assists but it is not the end of the world.”