Jack Grealish responds to Erling Haaland moment amid Manchester City transfer claims

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has defended the assistant referee who asked Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland for his autograph after the Champions League clash against Manchester City.

Haaland was on the losing side in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg tie, with City running out 2-1 winners at the Etihad.

Romanian official Octavian Sovre waited for Haaland in the tunnel after the match before approaching the Norway international and asking him for his autograph.It was picked up by the BT Sport cameras, and City boss Pep Guardiola admitted he had never seen such an incident in his career.

Pundits Owen Hargreaves and former Villa and Wolves defender Joleon Lescott were critical of Sovre’s actions, insisting he shouldn’t have approached Haaland in front of other players.

But Grealish has taken a different view, arguing the assistant did nothing wrong because he waited until the match had finished.

Replying to a clip of what happened, the Villa playmaker tweeted: “I don’t get why it’s even a problem if he did it after the game?”

Guardiola speculated that Sovre might have wanted the autograph for his son or daughter, but a more touching reason for the act has since emerged.

The Mirror reports that Sovre was collecting items he could donate for auction to raise funds for a centre which provides therapy for autism sufferers back home in Romania.

He has donated countless mementos including players’ shirts, photographs and autographs to help support SOS Autism Bihor.

And the signature of Haaland, one of Europe’s most in-demand players, is sure to be a hit when the yellow and red cards he signed go up for sale later this year.

Both Grealish and Haaland are being linked with summer moves to the Etihad but Villa are under no pressure to cash in on the England international, who signed a new five-year contract in September.

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