Pep denies asking Messi to join Manchester City

BARCELONA • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has denied a Mundo Deportivo report that he tried to sign strikers Lionel Messi and Neymar from former club Barcelona in the close season.

The Spanish newspaper also suggested that Guardiola attempted to buy Barca forward Luis Suarez and midfield pair Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.

City did, however, bring goalkeeper Claudio Bravo over from the Nou Camp as a replacement for Joe Hart, who joined Serie A side Torino on loan. Guardiola acknowledged he had also spoken to goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who missed the majority of Barca's La Liga games last season.

"There are some wars you lose from the start and it would have been nice if people had given my side of the story," he said.

"I did not call Messi because what I want is for him to play for Barcelona for many years.

"But maybe one day the lad will decide that he wants to play somewhere else. Maybe he will want his kids to learn English, I don't know. And if that happens, then there will be a list of four, five or six clubs who will want to sign him.

"I did not call him, nor Neymar, nor Busquets, nor Suarez, nor Iniesta. And I knew ter Stegen wanted to play more so I called him but he decided to stay at Barca."

Despite being Barca's most decorated coach and a former club captain, Guardiola had a fraught relationship with the board, including former president Sandro Rosell and incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Mundo Deportivo has traditionally taken a favourable stance towards the board.

"If I call a player it's perhaps because he is not playing much at the moment. And I also have the right to call them because Barca also call City players," said Guardiola.

The former Bayern Munich coach added that he turned down the chance to buy Neymar in 2013, when the forward was playing for Brazilian side Santos.

"I called him to try to sign him for Bayern," explained Guardiola.

"But when Neymar's dad told me about Barca, I told him to have no doubts and to go to Barca."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Pep denies asking Messi to join Manchester City'. Print Edition | Subscribe