SITTING at home on his sofa in Birmingham, these were the nights Jack Grealish dreamed of being a part of.
Before his £100m move to Manchester City this summer, mid-week Champions League nights were spent tweeting and drooling over his idol Kevin de Bruyne on TV.
Lionel Messi scored a stunning first goal for PSG[/caption]
But Jack Grealish failed to deliver in the French capital[/caption]
Now, he is a part of them.
The fantasy is being played out in real life. Sharing a pitch with the likes of De Bruyne, Neymar and Lionel Messi in the footballing cauldron that is the Parc des Princes.
A life-long ambition has been ticked off for the kid raised in Solihull, one he spoke about on repeat while ripping it up for his boyhood Aston Villa season after season in the Prem.
The question now is: Can he do more than simply be a member of the cast? Can he play starring role in games full of world class talent? Can he be the one people drool over?
On Tuesday night’s evidence, there were glimpses. Flashes of light in an otherwise disappointing European away-day for Pep Guardiola’s City.
But playing for a club and a side striving to win this competition by beating the continent’s very best – especially with a £100m price tag – there must be more than glimpses.
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Messi showed the young English prodigy the way with his stunning late goal. He doesn’t do glimpses. He does thunderbolts.
Grealish is an ambitious lad. He is desperate to elevate his own game to those sorts of levels at a crucial point in his career.
He knows he belongs on this stage. He showed at the Euros with England that he can mix it with the game’s elite at his wonderful, defender-dizzying, hair-bouncing best.
But he will also know more than most that nights like these are ones that cannot pass you by. They don’t come around that often.
On this occasion, despite his and his team’s efforts, it was not a memorable Grealish outing to stick in the scrap book. Messi was hardly made to look out of date.
Guardiola agreed, hooking him off just after the hour mark for another young English talent looking to make his mark on the biggest stages, Phil Foden.
Messi’s stunning strike was reminiscent of his Barcelona days[/caption]
His stand-out snap shots were ones of him slamming the floor in frustration like a disgruntled toddler as the Spanish ref took little notice of his dramatic tumbles.
Some things never change.
His impact on the game early on was limited before Parisian midfielder Idrissa Gueye rifled a rocket into the top corner in the ninth minute.
As City pushed for a way back into the game, they turned to their record signing for inspiration down the left.
There were those now-famous jinks of the hips and darts inside up against Hakimi, but none that brought about too much in the form of chances.
Although it was his dart inside mid-way through the half that sparked City’s best chance – teeing up De Bruyne for the cross. Raheem Sterling hit the bar. Bernardo Silva somehow followed suit.
The second half was full of much of the same as City struggled to seriously test Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Grealish made the occasional dart into the box, only to stutter and stall as PSG swarmed around him like a nasty rash.
And he had the best seat in the house – from the bench – as Messi gave a stark reminder why he is still the best of the best.
Take notes, Jack. Your dreams may have come true, but there is a long way to go.