Sunday 18 August 2019

Man City stars will 'start from zero' in next campaign - Guardiola

Exit door: Leroy Sane could well move on this summer after becoming frustrated by his lack of playing time this season. Photo: Getty
Exit door: Leroy Sane could well move on this summer after becoming frustrated by his lack of playing time this season. Photo: Getty

James Ducker

Pep Guardiola has warned his potential Manchester City history-makers that their places will be under threat next season if they slack off as he bids to cement their domination by spending heavily this summer.

City will become the first side to win a domestic treble if they add the FA Cup to their Premier League and League Cup crowns by beating Watford at Wembley this evening - when Javi Gracia's team will be tasked with overcoming odds of 5/1 if they are to pull off one of the biggest Cup final shocks.

But Guardiola has told his squad that, despite being on the brink of history, they will all "start from zero" next season, and their positions under even greater competition, with the manager targeting around four new signings.

Asked if he was keen to guard against complacency by freshening up the squad, the City manager said: "That is one of the reasons, yes. Every player has to feel, 'I have to play good or I don't play' if you want to be consistent after what we have done in these last two seasons.

"They have to feel - 'I have to win again, if not I have problems, I'm in trouble'. People say how beautiful it is (to win back-to-back titles), but we have to win again and again and the players have to feel that.

"It was incredible (to retain the title), but for the first day from next season we start from zero and I have to see (from the players) what I've seen in these last three seasons, but especially in terms of results in these past two seasons."

City are expected to trigger the €70 million release clause in the contract of Rodri, the Atletico Madrid and Spain defensive midfielder, and Guardiola is also targeting a centre-half, right-back and forward. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the Crystal Palace right-back who is also wanted by Manchester United, is in City's sights.

Guardiola is also braced for a number of departures, with defender Nicolas Otamendi and midfielder Fabian Delph likely to leave, defender Danilo the subject of interest from Inter Milan and growing concern among supporters that captain Vincent Kompany could depart when his contract expires next month.

The German pair of midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and winger Leroy Sane also face uncertain futures. Guardiola remains hopeful they will sign new contracts, but Gundogan is about to enter the final 12 months of his deal, while the biggest concern centres over Sane, who is refusing to sign a new deal amid concerns about a lack of playing time and is being linked with Bayern Munich. Sane is out of contract in June 2021.

"With Leroy, we are one and a half years trying to sign his (new) contract. We want him," Guardiola said.

"If you want to extend his contract, it's because you want him. You're not going to extend his contract because you don't want him. It's like Gundogan, for example - it's the same case.

Quadruple

"Yeah, (Sane has not started a lot) because he's competing with (Raheem) Sterling and Bernardo Silva. It's not easy. If you want to play for the quadruple we need Leroy, Sterling, Riyad (Mahrez), Bernardo (Silva).

"We can't compete for the quadruple with just two wingers. They have to fight each other and play the best as possible to convince me to put them in the line-up.

"Today, (transfers) are not easy, but some movements we have to do for next season, yes, because people want to leave, players want to play.

"They accept not playing for a period, but when the period (out of the team) is long it's normal that they want to play more.

"I understand completely that when players don't play regularly they want to play more - that they're completely happy when they play regularly and their lives are really sad when they don't."

Guardiola said one of his priorities next season would be to deliver City's first Champions League - and end his eight-year wait to win the competition again.

"Yes, we want to do that," he said. "Before I came here it was seven years (in the Champions League for me) and two times a winner and the other times semi-finals (with Barcelona and Bayern Munich), but here I could not reach the semi-finals.

"Of course, it's our dream to do it, but I have to improve, I have to see what I can do better to do it. As a manager, I've not been good enough in this club to maintain it."

Yet Guardiola doubts a quadruple could be achieved, even though his team came close this season.

"We have one game to do the little quadruple (including the Community Shield win), but the biggest one is far away," he said.

"I thought, after going out to Tottenham in the Champions League, if we'd gone through would we have been able to beat Tottenham, go to Old Trafford, Burnley and win the points we needed to be champions against this Liverpool? I don't know if we would have."

While City's success and style of football under Guardiola has been widely admired, the threat of a Champions League ban from UEFA over alleged financial breaches and other investigations by FIFA, the Football Association and Premier League risk impacting on the way their achievements are viewed.

Guardiola said it was important people recognised City remain innocent until proven otherwise.

"If we did something wrong or Uefa decides we have done something wrong we'll be banned, we will be punished, but we are innocent right now. I know the people are waiting for (us to be) guilty right now but until proven... we are innocent today, so we'll see in the future."

City also attracted criticism after footage appeared this week showing their players reputedly singing a song considered offensive to Liverpool as they celebrated their title win. But Guardiola insisted it had never been the club's intention to cause any offence.

"If someone was offended for another issue I'm sorry, I apologise, but (it was) never was our intention, we celebrated for ourselves," he said.

Manchester City v Watford

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