Sunday 25 February 2018

Pep Guardiola turned down Alex Ferguson despite eight months of talks

Pep Guardiola, pictured, rejected suggestions his rivalry with Jose Mourinho was one of sport's greatest
Pep Guardiola, pictured, rejected suggestions his rivalry with Jose Mourinho was one of sport's greatest

Manchester United failed to sign Pep Guardiola despite an eight-month pursuit because the former Barcelona midfielder refused to meet Alex Ferguson until he had left his childhood club.

After making more than 360 appearances for the Catalan club following his rise through the academy ranks, Guardiola elected to move to Italian side Brescia, and vowed never to sign for another Spanish club in order to avoid playing against Barcelona.

However, it’s emerged that former United manager Ferguson was determined to sign Guardiola once he entered the final year of his Barcelona contract, and he even planned to meet the midfielder face-to-face in order to secure the deal once Guardiola became a free agent.

But at the time of Ferguson’s interest, Guardiola had not yet told Barcelona that he would be leaving the club, and as a result refused to meet the United manager despite the move being one that “any player would have killed to negotiate with”, according to his agent Josep Maria Orobitg.

“The first club that went in hard for Guardiola was United. They really wanted him. Pep never wanted to talk about it,” said Orobitg, as quoted by The Sun.

“He kept his word, even when it involved Manchester United, a club that any player would have killed to negotiate with.

“United pressed me but I couldn’t do anything. Pep hadn’t yet explained to the Barcelona president he wasn’t going to stay.

“United then gave us an ultimatum, they wanted a face-to-face meeting between Ferguson and Guardiola.

“They had to plan their team and couldn’t wait any longer. Guardiola said no to the meeting and United abandoned their interest in Pep, and even got angry.

“After eight months of discussions with United, never with Pep, always me, and rejecting great financial terms, it all finished.”

Despite Guardiola becoming available once the season had finished, Ferguson’s anger had transformed into stubbornness, and he refused to make a second attempt to sign Guardiola, resulting in the Spaniard heading to Italy to join Brescia and later Roma. Guardiola is now firmly back in United’s sights but as prime target number one as he brings his Manchester City side to Old Trafford this Saturday for the Manchester derby.

Orobitg continued to explain that Guardiola’s decision not to join United was not one he regrets, and also added that had he moved to England in the latter years of his career, he may not have received the opportunity to return to Barcelona and lead them through the most successful period in their history.

He said: “Josep has never regretted that decision, he always accepts responsibility for what he does.”

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