England’s first ever £100million player has built a reputation for his outrageous skill and technical ability but the Manchester City star simplified his game in Thursday’s win in Budapest
It was a pass that travelled no more than three or four yards.
It was a pass that did not have to be threaded through a tangle of legs.
It was a pass that might not be deemed worthy of a second look by an awful lot of people.
Understandably so. It was not even an assist.
In the build-up to the Raheem Sterling goal that began this cruise, it was an assist for Mason Mount’s assist.
But while what looks like a routine ball will not be making any showcase reels, it summed up Jack Grealish as a footballer.
He is intelligent. Full stop.
It was a pass made possible by the run of Mount, of course, but it was a clever pass.
And as straightforward as they seem, you have to execute them expertly.
Grealish failed to do that on one first half occasion when Luke Shaw was on what is becoming regular overlap duty for England.
But he made amends with the pass for Mount, whose equally clever cut-back was expertly finished by Sterling.
Once again, by the way, Sterling was an outstanding performer for England.
Such has been the impact of Kalvin Phillips at international level, fans voted him the England Player of the Year.
And it was a lovely moment when Declan Rice handed over the award in the build-up to this match.
It was fitting recognition for Phillips’ rise from the Championship to the grandest stage.
But if Sterling was perhaps a little puzzled as to why the accolade did not come his way, it would have been perfectly understandable.
This night would merely reinforce that puzzlement.
Ahead of his goal, plenty of things went wrong for Sterling.
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But things go wrong for Sterling because he is adventurous, he tries his luck.
Things go wrong for Sterling because he tries to beat opponents, tries to take them out of the game.
A rare highlight of a first half that was almost entirely without a point of interest was Sterling’s cross-field slalom past a handful of players.
When a team is as defensively minded and as defensively organised as the Hungarians were, the best way to try and breakthrough is often for individuals to take on their direct rival.
And Sterling always tried to do that.
Ahead of the game, Gareth Southgate referred to players who have proved themselves in winning things and helping England to a World Cup semi-final and a Euro final.
He was referring to the likes of Sterling.
Southgate then referred to players who have big reputations but are yet to win things and have not proved themselves at this level.
Presumably, he was referring to the likes of Grealish.
Well, as Grealish followed up his part in Sterling’s opener by deliciously serving up a chance for Harry Kane, we can confidently assume he will soon be winning things.
And we can confidently assume he will soon be proving himself at this level.
Because quite simply, even when passing a ball a few yards along the deck, Grealish is a class act.
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