Jack Grealish says his departure from Aston Villa for Manchester City was as emotional as Lionel Messi’s final Barcelona news conference and that he “teared up” as he said goodbye.
The 25-year-old first joined Villa aged six, but was signed by Manchester City for a British record £100m on Thursday.
“That is the exact way I felt myself.”
The England player added: “Before I left at the hotel I spoke to the team, the staff and the players and I teared up a bit myself.”
Argentina forward Messi was brought to tears after he confirmed his departure from Barcelona on Sunday, ending a 21-year association with the club.
Grealish said he had held an Aston Villa season ticket since the age of four and that leaving the club was “one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make”.
“I felt like it was time for me to move on,” he continued.
“I’ve always said how much I wanted to play Champions League football – I couldn’t do that at Villa this year.
“I have come here to win silverware and play in the Champions League, so that is my only focus now.”
The £100m fee for Grealish surpassed Paul Pogba’s £89m move to Manchester United in 2016 as the highest transfer fee paid in English football history.
The midfielder – who joins on a six-year contract – is expected to make his Premier League debut for City at Tottenham on Sunday.
Grealish set out several reasons for wanting to join City, including his hope it would boost his chances of a starting spot with England, and his desire to play under manager Pep Guardiola.
He said playing in the Champions League and “performing” for the club “could set me up to have a brilliant future with the national team”.
Grealish impressed for England in Euros warm-up wins against Austria and Romania and made one start and four substitute appearances, registering two assists, for England during the tournament.
He added that he wanted to “try and start in these games at the World Cup [in 2022] and in the qualifiers”.