Tuesday 22 January 2019

Guardiola: City offered chance to sign Pogba and Mkhitaryan


Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Reuters
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Reuters

Jason Burt

Pep Guardiola has claimed that he was offered the chance to sign Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Manchester United by their powerful agent Mino Raiola during the January transfer window.

"I'm surprised because I am a dog," Guardiola said in reference to the agent's derogatory description of him.

Guardiola's revelations, on the eve of the Manchester derby, in which City can win the Premier League title, are extraordinary and will re-open his sulphurous dispute with United manager Jose Mourinho.

Suggesting that Pogba wants out of United will infuriate Mourinho, who has been dealing with constant questions over the £89m record signing's performances, state of mind and, above all, their relationship.

Guardiola made his amazing claim, which Raiola did not deny when subsequently asked about it, after being asked whether the United manager, given the fierce history between the two, was still his "big rival".

"I have many (rivals)… especially agents," Guardiola (below) responded. "I have a lot. I am a big boss. I'll give you a huge list of my big rivalries, believe me."

The city manager was then asked directly whether Raiola was on that list, given the animosity the agent has shown.

That was recently renewed with Raiola attacking the Spaniard by saying: "Pep Guardiola, the coach, is fantastic. As a person, he's an absolute zero. He's a coward, a dog."

The pair have been involved in a long-running feud which erupted in 2011 when another of Raiola's clients, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was forced out of Barcelona after disputes with Guardiola which denied the striker the chance of winning the Champions League, a prize that always eluded him.

"I could answer him. I have a question, yeah, I will answer him, come on. OK," Guardiola said before making his incendiary claim.

"I don't understand why I am so… I agree with him. I am not a… Finally, the people discover my secrets; I am a bad guy. I'm a coward. I don't understand why I am a so bad guy."

Guardiola added: “I never speak with him (Raiola), so, I don’t know. Maybe Ibra explain many things about me, but two months ago, he offered me Mkhitaryan and Pogba to play with us.

“Why? Why he offer? He was interested in Mkhitaryan and Pogba to play with us? So, he has to protect his players and he has to know.

“So, he cannot bring the players a guy like me, like a dog. And comparing a dog is bad. It’s not good. He has to respect the dogs.”

Asked what his reaction was to being offered Pogba, Guardiola (pictured) added: “Pogba is an incredible player. A top, top player, but I said no. We don’t have the money enough to buy Pogba because he is so expensive.”

Asked whether he would ever sign a Raiola client, Guardiola, again sarcastically, said: “I am not a good guy. I am not a good guy. He deserves his players to play with better guys. But, he knows as well, I am a top manager. Thank you.”

When questioned about Guardiola’s claim, Raiola did not deny he had offered the pair to City in January and did little to downplay the suggestion he had discussed the matter with City.

“I never spoke to him (Guardiola),” Raiola said. “And that I offer players not to him but to Manchester City, which is a fantastic club with a fantastic manager.

“Who I talk about I will not comment. That I leave to the club’s responsibility and account.”

Pogba reacted to hearing Guardiola’s remarks by tweeting: “Say what?” next to an ear emoji, the United midfielder appearing to infer the City manager’s claims were news to him.

Neither United nor Mourinho, have commented publicly on the claims but is understood the club have no intention of selling Pogba.

And what of the football? City can secure a third title in seven years – and a first under Guardiola – if they beat United at home.

That is the most delicious prospect for their supporters, and there will be no attempt to placate Mourinho by keeping the music down should City be crowned champions. If anything, the volume will be turned all the way up.

The United manager told City’s players to “show some f***ing respect” after reacting angrily to the noise blaring out of the away-team dressing room following his side’s 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in December – scenes that sparked a 25-man tunnel bust-up and an English FA investigation that ultimately spared both clubs any punishment.

Kevin De Bruyne expects his old manager to be big enough to suck up the raucous celebrations should City claim the victory against their bitter rivals that would clinch the title.  “You have to take it, you know,” the City midfielder said. “If you lose, you lose. You have to take that people mock you, that people do things on social media, say things about you.

“We put music on for us, not to do anything bad to other people. It’s our thing to relax and have fun, and if people take it that it’s bad for them then I’m sorry, but it’s just for us. I don’t think it’s disrespectful. It’s not to mock anybody.”

De Bruyne has been rubbing Mourinho’s nose in it for nine months, the Portuguese’s dismay at the sight of his great adversary, Guardiola, disappearing over the horizon, compounded by glaring weekly reminders that City’s driving force has been a player he sold at Chelsea.

However, De Bruyne said he would take no personal satisfaction from winning the title in front of Mourinho and claimed that his experience at Chelsea, whom he left for Wolfsburg in January 2014 after a lack of first-team chances, helped to shape him.

“I really don’t care, honestly,” De Bruyne said when asked about the prospect of making a statement to his former manager.

“In the 10 years I’ve been playing, nine-and-a-half years have been up, and a half-year has been a bit down.

“That (at Chelsea) was an experience where I learnt the most out of how football goes. I was only 22 at the time – no one is going to play all the time at that age.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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