Pep Guardiola backtracks on Sadio Mane 'diving' comment ahead of Liverpool showdown
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has attempted to clarify his controversial suggestions that Liverpool players are prone to diving, as he insisted it was 'never his intention' to make that insinuation.
Guardiola made the remark at the end of a BBC interview following his side's 2-1 win against Southampton last weekend, in comments that were viewed by many as a less than subtle verbal jab directed at Liverpool striker Sadio Mane after he was booked for diving on Saturday.
"It's is a special talent," stated Guardiola, when he was asked about Liverpool's impressive ability to snatch late goals to win matches. "Sometimes it's is diving, sometimes it's a talent to score incredible goals in the last minute."
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp responded to the jibe yesterday by suggesting he didn't believe Guardiola had made the remark until he saw it on television and then claimed his rival spends too much time talking about the Reds, with the City manager keen to pour praise on his side's Premier League title rivals in comments that appear to be an attempt to backtrack from the negative remarks that have caused such a stir.
"My son and my daughter always when Liverpool win in the last minutes say Liverpool are lucky. I tell them not," Guardiola told reporters in Italy ahead of his side's Champions League clash against Atalanta on Wednesday night.
"What Liverpool has done this season and last season many times is because they have this incredible quality to fight until the end. That's why I said to my players - not just my son and daughter- that it is not lucky. Sometimes in the 94th minute against Leicester with the penalty (in the game at last month at Anfield) it was like 'wow'.
"That was the intention for my comment but it was far from my intention to say that Sadio Mane is that type of player. Even with that, the ref and the VAR said penalty. Maybe I was wrong to think it wasn't a penalty."
Guardiola the claimed he was not aware of Klopp's response to his accusations, before offering up a hint that he was fully aware of the snipes back from the Liverpool manager as he suggested he didn't want to 'put oil on the fire'.
By way of coincidence, we are expected to believe, that was the exact phrase used by Klopp when he was asked about Guardiola's comments on Monday, with the City manager's backtracking evidently laced with a little irony.
"It's a great week for us because we come to Italy and face Atalanta and then face Liverpool on Sunday," he added. "There is still three-quarters of the season to go after that."
Meanwhile, former Liverpool captain and manager Graeme Souness believes Guardiola's comments will be a boost to Klopp and his players ahead of their game against City at Anfield on Sunday.
"I would be encouraged if I was in the Liverpool camp," stated Virgin Media Sport analyst Souness. "So soon after the City game has finished, he talked about his own team and then immediately he came out with his remarks regarding Mane.
"You are thinking too much about Mane and Liverpool and I'd be encouraged by that if I was a Liverpool player or a member of their staff.
"All you can do in football is be concerned about your own lot. All you can do is be concerned about your next game. The City game will take care of itself on Sunday. There is going to be so much hype and interest in it."