A club-record signing struggling to make an impact at Manchester City.
Critics ready to write him off as a flop in his first six months at the Etihad Stadium.
A maverick individualist, who cannot fit in with Pep Guardiola’s team ethic and can only flourish with the freedom of being the main man.
If Jack Grealish needs any inspiration of what his future at City can look like, he need only look to team-mate Riyad Mahrez.
The Algeria winger faced all those accusations when he joined from Leicester City in a £60 million ($80m) deal in 2018, with plenty questioning if Mahrez was the sort of player that City needed.
But Mahrez is now a crucial part of Guardiola’s plans, providing a number of decisive moments in front of goal over the past 18 months that have been crucial given City’s lack of a central striker.
On Tuesday, it was his slinky swerve and finish that finally broke the deadlock for City in what was becoming an annoying fifth-round FA Cup clash against Peterborough United.
It was the sort of strike Mahrez seems to have scored a dozen times before, whether it is at a scruffy Championship ground or the elegance of a Champions League stadium.
Squaring up a full-back, who does not know whether Mahrez will go inside or out, before dropping a shoulder to send the defender the wrong way and quickly firing a shot under the goalkeeper.
“Riyad always had this quality in the final third – he is the best we have,” Guardiola said post-match. “He scored a fantastic goal and we’re so proud of the game he played.”
That goal took Mahrez’s total for the season to 19, already his best-ever campaign – even considering his heroics for Leicester in their title-winning year – and leaves him behind only Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah for most goals in all competitions by a Premier League player this season.
Guardiola insisted that statistics should be largely ignored ahead of the game, but it is an impressive return none the less.
And Grealish cannot help but want to improve his own goal contribution numbers, so he was clearly delighted to get the second at London Road and secured a place in the quarter-finals.
It was a moment of top quality too, Phil Foden dropping deep to fire a 50-yard pass that his England team-mate exquisitely pulled out of the sky before tapping home.
“I expect more, I want to get a lot more,” Grealish said after netting just his fourth City goal, and first since mid-December. “I’ve been speaking with the manager and he’s been helping me.
“I want to get goals and assists, but he said it’s not all about that. He’s trusted me in a lot of big games, which I feel I’ve done alright in. Hopefully that’ll come now in the big part of the season.”
The relief was visible, and he was able to enjoy the final 20 minutes as he dipped into his box of tricks.
Those driving runs, clever link-up play and intelligent movement that persuaded City to pay a British-record £100m ($139m) for him in the summer were all on show, and he came close to a second goal with a delicate curling effort that was tipped over by Peterborough keeper Steven Benda.
“He played really well,” Guardiola said of Grealish. “He had a chance in the first half that was difficult and he was more involved in the second half.
“For him and for us, it’s so important he came back from injury, he felt good and he played at a really good level.”
The opposition are a long way from the best he will face during his time at City, but Grealish needed a confidence boost.
Now he, and City fans, will hope he can follow in Mahrez’s footsteps over the next few years.