Guardiola has no plans to add to squad next month

LONDON • Pep Guardiola has denied that Manchester City will be in the market for a centre-half next month, dismissing in particular reports that he is interested in Southampton's Virgil van Dijk.

"He is not going to come here - it is impossible," the City manager said on Sunday. "At this stage I don't think we will be buying anyone in January but that could change over the next few weeks.

"We might need to strengthen in one position, maybe a full-back, but right now I have no immediate plans."

Guardiola said he is happy with the centre-backs at his disposal and that nothing untoward should be read into the fact that John Stones missed two games, before the game against Hull this morning (Singapore time), both of which resulted in City victories.

"John will improve; if I didn't have confidence in him he would not have played the number of games he has," the Spaniard said.

"The only way you can improve as a footballer is to play, play and play. At the moment John is working hard in training so he will be fit and prepared when I decide he's going to play again.

"He has played a lot in the last few months. It is the first time in his career he has had to play every three days and adapt to the Champions League and you have to keep your focus.

"Of course John must improve like Nicolas Otamendi must improve, like Aleksandar Kolarov must improve and because Vincent Kompany is coming back.

"I decide to play with a back four against Watford for some reasons and I tried the same back four for the Arsenal game. I know that people think if a player doesn't play it is because the coach doesn't trust him. That is not the truth.

"Our job is uncomfortable. It is unfair in some cases because many players deserve to play and I cannot find a solution for everyone. But everyone has to stay prepared because the season is so long and we have the Cup and the Champions League in the new year."

The 22-year-old has apparently accepted the situation professionally, impressing his manager with his maturity.

"He is young and still learning but he has a lot of personality," Guardiola added.

"He has the character to play for a big team.

"All the big clubs buy huge players. The players at Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham all have quality. The difference is the personality.

"John has what it takes. I don't have any doubts about his character."

With Raheem Sterling, 22, also being rested on occasions this season, Guardiola was asked whether he believed English players have difficulty adapting to the style of football he wants to play.

"Not at all," he replied. "Definitely not, because my game is so simple. Raheem is back to the level at which he started the season but we cannot forget how young he still is.

"In general, his performance has been high and we need this guy in the team for one against one.

"He is not our top scorer, but he knows how important it is to score goals, and he can do that whether he is used narrow or wide."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Guardiola has no plans to add to squad next month'. Print Edition | Subscribe