Jack Grealish reveals specific admiration for Cristiano Ronaldo

Jack Grealish says he always admired Cristiano Ronaldo’s way of dealing with abuse from rival supporters and is determined to “thrive off the hatred” as he aims to take his game to the next level.

The midfielder, who says he is “deeply embarrassed” by breaking lockdown rules in March, has, of course, been linked with a move to Ronaldo’s old club Manchester United.

The Villa skipper looks geared to leaving Villa Park this summer and relegation for the Villains will almost certainly see the England hopeful move on.

Villa do not want to lose Grealish but they are aware of the player’s desire to play at elite level and £70million will be enough to sign the Villa skipper.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has conducted detailed background checks and, according to The Sun “only heard good things about Grealish, his character and what he would bring to Old Trafford”.

His form, despite Villa’s struggles, has also been good and, according to talkSPORT in February Grealish was the most fouled player in the Premier League (111 fouls drawn). And he says, like Ronaldo used to do in away days at Villa Park, that he thrives on hatred from rival fans.

“I love all that,” Grealish told the Express and Star. “I love when people are on my back and targeting me.

“I always remember when I was a kid – and I am not saying I am anywhere near his level – but Cristiano Ronaldo used to come to Villa and the fans used to absolutely cane him. He used to thrive off it and that is what I try to do.

“I try to thrive off the hatred from the fans.”

Villa are currently second from bottom and face Sheffield United in their game in hand on June 17 – a match which could see them rise above the drop zone.

“It is probably going to be a tough run-in,” added Grealish. “But there are also teams who have not got much to play for we are playing against so you can look at it two different ways.

“I am confident we will come back and play to the best of our abilities. We are looking fit as a team, probably fitter than we were at this stage in pre-season. We still have another two weeks and hopefully we can get fitter and more prepared than ever.

“I would probably say it is a disadvantage, if I am honest, only because of how much we have thrived on the home games this year. ‘We have won a lot more at home than we have away.

“We had six games remaining at home. We still have a game in hand and if we win the game in hand we are out of the relegation zone. It is not something we are going to sit back and moan about. It is still in our hands.

“If we win our game in hand we are out of the bottom three and ready to go for the last nine games. We can’t moan about the fact we might have had the fans there. We will just take it as it is because we are just delighted to be getting back.”

Meanwhile, Grealish is hoping to draw a line under the controversy surrounding him agreeing to visit a friend during the coronavirus lockdown in March.

Police were called to the Dickens Heath area of Solihull to reports a Range Rover had crashed into two parked cars, with pictures emerging online of the Aston Villa captain at the scene in slippers and a bright blue hoodie.

The midfielder later said he was “deeply embarrassed” by the incident – less than a day after launching a video appeal for people to stay at home during the Government-enforced lockdown.

And in an interview with The Guardian, he said: “I knew straight away that I had to come out and apologise myself, which I wanted to do; I didn’t want to hide behind a club statement.

“I am old enough now and mature enough to know that I’d done wrong.

“I know I am a footballer but I’m still human and we all make mistakes and straight away I knew I’d made a mistake. I’m also a role model as well to a lot of people out there, especially young children who might look up to me.

“So I try to act in respectable manner but since then I have tried to keep my head down, work hard and do as much charitable work as possible.”

Grealish, who has donated £150,000 to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and raised a further £55,000 for the NHS by raffling off one off his Villa shirts, accepts his misdeeds will always be placed under greater scrutiny.

He added: “That’s just the way things are in this world that we live in. Everyone knows when you do something it’s always going to be the bad stuff that gets out there.

“That’s what I have to deal with. I respect my job, absolutely love what I do, and wouldn’t change it for the world.”

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