Wednesday 25 April 2018

Guardiola goes to Wigan - 13 years after he nearly signed

Guardiola: “Wigan were interested in me, I didn’t choose the club. It didn’t happen and that’s all.” Photo credit: PA Video/PA Wire
Guardiola: “Wigan were interested in me, I didn’t choose the club. It didn’t happen and that’s all.” Photo credit: PA Video/PA Wire

Ian Whittell

Pep Guardiola will finally make it to Wigan's DW Stadium for competitive action tonight, 13 years after the Manchester City manager almost signed for the club as a player.

In one of the more surreal examples of alternate football histories, Paul Jewell, then the Wigan manager, thought he had agreed a deal for Guardiola, who was 34, to move to Lancashire as the former Barcelona player sought a switch to England at the end of his career.

Jewell's hopes ended when Guardiola's agent called to say he would instead be accepting a more lucrative offer in Qatar, before he eventually moved to Mexico.

Tonight's FA Cup fifth-round tie at least offers the Catalan the chance to survey the surroundings he might once have called home.

"Yeah, it was years ago," said Guardiola. "But I was not good enough!

"That is the truth, yeah. I was old, really old, as a football player to come here. I tried to come here to play in English football, but I was not able. The same happened when I came here to Manchester City, with Stuart Pearce. They were so clever. They were so clever because I was not good enough!

Modesty

"Wigan were interested in me, I didn't choose the club. It didn't happen and that's all."

Guardiola's modesty not withstanding, Jewell recalled his conversation with the City manager differently in a later interview.

"I got a call from Guardiola's agent and he gave me Pep's number so I rang him and left a message," said Jewell.

"Quite remarkably, five minutes later he rang me back. He knew all about Wigan, all about our players - I was really impressed.

"We had a terrific conversation and he told me he would like to come and play in the Premier League. His wages weren't extortionate and he was all set to come when his agent called me a couple of days later saying Pep had received a mind-blowing offer from Qatar. So it was Qatar or Wigan."

Wigan have fallen far from their eight-season stay in the Premier League, which culminated in beating City in the 2013 FA Cup final.

However, wins in this season's competition over Bournemouth and West Ham mean that Guardiola will treat the tie with caution, although he is adamant that back-up goalkeeper Claudio Bravo remains his first choice for domestic cup competitions.

"He's going to play, Claudio," said Guardiola. "We are in the Carabao Cup final thanks to him. So I cannot forget what happened."

Wigan Athletic v Manchester City, live, BBC1, 7.55

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