Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has called the booing of Jack Grealish by Aston Villa fans “shocking and difficult to understand”.
Grealish was a late substitute for Manchester City as they beat Villa 2-1 on Wednesday on his first return to Villa Park since his £100million summer move to the Etihad.
The England international got a mixed reception from the crowd as he entered the pitch, while he was booed by a number of fans every time he touched the ball.
Grealish had signed a new contract shortly before departing Villa Park in the summer transfer window – but Carragher still can’t believe Grealish was “treated as he was”.
Carragher wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “To me, the timing of Grealish’s transfer – and the manner in which he handled his departure – was as classy as it gets. The club hierarchy released a statement wishing him well, and when Grealish says he left Villa Park with a heavy heart I believe him.
“As an England international in his mid-20s looking to take the next step in his career, no-one could begrudge him the chance to join the Premier League champions, learning from one of the best managers ever, and challenging himself in the Champions League.
“What was his reward? To be booed by a large section of Villa supporters on his return in a City shirt. It was shocking and difficult to understand.
“Since Grealish was a teenager, all the top four Premier League clubs have been scouting him and considering a bid. For years, Grealish remained loyal to Villa, staying with them in the Championship when others would have jumped ship immediately, and helping his boyhood team establish themselves in the Premier League.
“By signing a deal with a clause of £100 million, Grealish took a calculated risk which was mutually beneficial to him and his club. He ensured when he was sold, Villa received an unbelievable fee to reinvest in the squad.
“And the only way he was ever going to motivate a club to pay so much for him was to consistently perform at the highest level. It means that although Villa were unhappy to lose their best player, the compensation was massive.
“Until Wednesday evening, my presumption was that Villa fans understood and respected that. Three days on, it is still hard to believe Grealish was treated as he was.”