Jack Grealish sets out Man City target after Pep Guardiola change

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Jack Grealish has got his eyes firmly set on the Champions League after another heartbreaking exit for Manchester City last season.

City are yet to win the competition despite their domestic dominance, and suffered another painful exit recently at the hands of Real Madrid where they were two goals up heading into the 180th minute of the tie but contrived to lose. Grealish came off the bench in the second leg and had two brilliant efforts cleared off the line that surely would otherwise have sent the Blues through to a final with Liverpool.

Grealish has had to change his expectations since moving to City in a £ 100m move from Villa last summer and now has to get into the mindset of challenging for every trophy possible. As much as Pep Guardiola and his players are expected to do that, the Champions League holds particular appeal next season for Grealish – particularly after the most recent disappointment.

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“Winning the Premier League has been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” he said. “The biggest aim for next season is to compete for all trophies – that never changes at a club like City – but particularly the Champions League ..

“We got so close last season and we definitely have the quality to compete for it again next time. It’s the pinnacle of anyone’s career playing in a competition like the Champions League, we all play for European nights under the lights.”

Grealish received public support from his manager for the majority of the season as he adapted to life at City and was also praised by chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak in his annual address to in-house media, acknowledging what coaches have been saying privately about their belief that the player can thrive at the Etihad.

The signing of Erling Haaland promises to add to an attack that is already the best in the country, although it increases the competition for places among existing squad players. That does not faze Grealish though, who has absorbed everything he can from Guardiola over the last 12 months to make sure that he is always pushing as hard as he can for selection.

“I like it when Man City makes big signings, not other clubs, because I want our club to be the best. Of course, it’s brilliant.

“We’ve just signed Erling Haaland. It’s good competition for players like myself because it helps to keep you on your toes. But it’s also brilliant because it just means you have got more chance of winning yourself. I love it and love to see the club making big signings.

“Pep is an incredible manager and the best in the world. It’s all about the details with him so even if we win by a huge score line there’s always something to work on which has really opened my eyes to what it takes to be a champion “It’s those hard yards that other managers and players don’t see and that’s why he’s one of the best managers in the world.”

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Grealish has been criticized in some quarters for his boozy celebrations to City winning the league and his partying in the close season. The player does not need to defend himself from celebrating hard after a year of working as hard, and the critics that he does have tend to overlook the ways in which he is inspiring young people in the country.

As well as becoming an ambassador for Special Olympics GB recently to help raise awareness for those with intellectual disabilities, he is also working with McDonalds to help deliver free football sessions to a million kids in the UK over the next four years.

While the £ 100m man rarely publicises all the work he does for inclusion, his actions are allowing many people to make their own minds up about him. Judging by the reactions when he surprised youngsters at a Fun Football session in Manchester last week, the player’s popularity will not be ending any time soon.

It’s massively important to have football for everyone. And that’s why the McDonald’s sessions are so good, “he said.

“It’s not just male football that we need. We need everyone. To see the women and girls playing is brilliant. And, of course, footballers with disabilities too. We’ve seen the Cerebral Palsy team training recently at St George’s Park, so it’s great.

“And that’s what is nice. McDonald’s are really pushing that too with their Fun Football sessions. We’re seeing everyone coming together and they are ensuring that football really is for all to enjoy. It’s brilliant, along with the quality free coaching they are providing to kids.

“It was nice, especially when I went to a session, to see the children happy, smiling and just enjoying themselves. Even the facilities and everything that was put on for them during the session was first class.

Getting my start into football was all thanks to grassroots football and my family accessibility in getting me to these sessions. With the cost-of-living crisis around, money is a great concern for families and McDonald’s Fun Football has taken away that cost for many meaning it’s more about the fun of the game.

“Sometimes there is a lot of noise and hype around football more for the signings, money spent and star talent when really it should just be about the sport. Grassroots football keeps me grounded as not only a player but as a person too as the sport is for everyone and can be played everywhere by everyone and that’s how it should always be. “

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