Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Everybody spies, sometimes,' admits Guardiola

Guardiola: Backing Bielsa. Photo: PA
Guardiola: Backing Bielsa. Photo: PA

James Ducker

Pep Guardiola has admitted he was complicit in European football's culture of spying while at Barcelona and Bayern Munich but insisted it was not a practice he would be repeating in England with Manchester City.

The Football Association and Football League have launched investigations into the Leeds United spying scandal after the club's manager, Marcelo Bielsa, admitted he was responsible for sending a member of his staff to watch Derby train 24 hours before their Championship game at Elland Road.

The Argentine subsequently admitted to spying on all of Leeds' Championship rivals this season.

Guardiola said he had no plans to send City staff on such covert missions but, defending his friend and mentor, the Catalan supported Bielsa's claims that spying was an accepted practice on the continent and acknowledged it happened on his watch at Barcelona and Bayern.

"In other countries, everybody does that," Guardiola said of spying ahead of City's game away to bottom club Huddersfield Town tomorrow.

"It is the culture of the clubs. It was part of the club. Not because you said, 'You have to do it'. It is the leagues.

"When we were training at Bayern Munich, there were people in the little mountains with cameras and the opponent was watching what we did. Everybody did it. (But) I am not going to send anyone to spy on Huddersfield!"

Asked if he felt the culture was different in England, Guardiola said: "I don't know. It is more difficult (to do here). It (training) is private. But in all the countries I have been before, everybody does it."

Bielsa told a story this week about how, after his Athletic Bilbao side lost

3-0 to Guardiola's Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final in 2012, he sent Guardiola his extensive analysis of the Catalan club as a gift. Guardiola responded by telling Bielsa: "You know more about Barcelona than me!"

Guardiola confirmed the tale and insisted the "spygate" row had not diminished his respect for Bielsa in any way, saying it was in society's nature to be nosy.

"Barcelona was a bunker - it was impossible to look at us, like it is here (at City), but that story is true," Guardiola said.

"My respect (for Bielsa) remains the same. Everybody wants to know everything, not just in football but in society."

Meanwhile, Guardiola confirmed that City are looking to sign a left-back in the summer. Leicester City and England defender Ben Chilwell is the leading target despite Benjamin Mendy's imminent return from injury.

France international Mendy, signed from Monaco for £49.1m in 2017, has missed large spells of both seasons he has been at the club with knee problems.

Last term the Premier League champions coped well as midfielder Fabian Delph adapted to the position but this term it has been more problematic.

Delph has had his own fitness problems while Oleksandr Zinchenko, another option, is also a converted midfielder.

The problem may soon be resolved as Mendy nears a return from a second operation in two years - but more back-up may be required.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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