Jack Grealish could make his Manchester City debut from the bench in Saturday’s Community Shield at Wembley and the British record signing could have a key role to play over the opening weeks of the season with Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne still sidelined.
Grealish completed his £100million switch from Aston Villa to Premier League champions City on Thursday.
The 25-year-old playmaker’s Wembley cameos from the bench became one of the most anticipated features of England’s run to the Euro 2020 final and he will resume that role at the national stadium this weekend, having only returned to training from a post-tournament break this week.
“He’s not ready to start at all, he was one week training alone but he’ll travel with us to settle with the team and he will be on the bench and we’ll see what happens,” Guardiola said.
“After we’ll see what happens but from the beginning, no way.”
Next weekend’s Premier League opener against Tottenham, which is set to be played out against the backdrop of City’s pursuit of Spurs striker Harry Kane, might be a different matter, given Foden and De Bruyne are still nursing respective foot and ankle complaints following their European Championship exploits.
“Phil Foden will still be out for a while. He had a tough injury with the national team in the last few days [of Euro 2020] and unfortunately could not play the final,” Guardiola said.
“You have to be careful with this injury because if we don’t [take precautions] it will be longer.
“Kevin still is out. I think he will come back a little bit sooner or quicker than Phil apparently but both still out for a while.”
De Bruyne was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year for the second successive season as City regained the Premier League and retained the EFL Cup in 2020-21, which they concluded with a 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.
The Belgium superstar, who penned a long-term contract extension running until 2025 in May, scored six goals and supplied 12 Premier League assists. Those came from 80 chances created, 19 of which were classed as “big chances” by Opta.
Joao Cancelo crafted the next most opportunities in City’s squad with 45, meaning Grealish (81 chances created, 14 big chances, 10 assists in the Premier League in 2020-21) could instantly have a critical role to play in De Bruyne’s absence.
Grealish has frequently voiced his admiration for the 30-year-old and Guardiola is in a similar position when it comes to a player he has long coveted.
“The first time I saw him playing,” he replied when asked for the moment he decided he wanted to sign Grealish, noting the attacking midfielder’s ability to control the tempo of the play – a quality Guardiola has frequently described as being vital in his teams.
“But then it wasn’t possible, you have the squad and we had to invest in other parts as those parts were weaker. But especially when I saw him on TV.
“I said, ‘that guy controls the tempo’. I love when he has the ball, he stops before the dribble and all the opponents stop as well. He controls the tempo and rhythm, when he accelerates and decelerates the action.
“And then especially when [City] played against him – the physicality, the special mentality of how he fought against the opponents, against our players. He said, ‘I’m here’.
“Especially Txiki [Begiristain, City’s director of football]. Txiki was completely in love with him and that’s why we decided to try.”
From Saturday onwards, Grealish will begin the work of trying make City’s fans fall similarly head over heels.