Pep Guardiola: Manchester City boss was ‘not close at all’ to leaving, says Guillem Balague

Pep Guardiola

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was “not close at all” to leaving the Premier League club, says BBC Radio 5 Live’s Guillem Balague.

They have won six major honours since the ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach, 49, took charge in 2016.

“There were offers from Juventus, Paris St-Germain and others, but he’s happy,” said Spanish football writer Balague.

“He’s enjoying himself, he’s surrounded by people he trusts, he controls the sporting decisions and is happy that nothing that happens in the changing room comes out, which used to happen at Bayern and Barcelona.”

After surrendering the league title to Liverpool last season and failing to reach the Champions League semi-finals for a fourth straight year, Guardiola entered the final year of his contract with City.

He was linked with a return to the Nou Camp after presidential candidate Victor Font said last month he would be keen to bring him backexternal-link but Guardiola said his time as Barca coach was “over”.

“We all knew that Manchester City had put a deal on the table – the length of it we did not know – and City were not going to put any kind of pressure on him,” added Balague.

“In the last couple of months, there have been stories about unrest in the camp, players’ agents knocking on doors to see what’s going on, just because they didn’t know if Guardiola was going to stay on.

“But the decision-makers at Manchester City have been very confident. The transition that started this summer – into a Manchester City version two, with Guardiola – will continue next summer as well.

“Most of the transition is done, but there is more to do. He feels there is room for improvement and it needed him in charge of it.”

Guardiola won nine major honours in four years as Barcelona coach and, after a year’s sabbatical, spent three years at Bayern Munich from 2013.

“At Barcelona there was so much tension that the last year [2011-12] was very difficult for him,” said Balague.

“At Bayern Munich, after every game, he had to explain to his bosses how the team played and why he did what he did. It became clear in the last six or seven months of his contract that he was not going to renew.

“But at City, he doesn’t have to do any of that. He’s motivated by the fact there are going to have to be changes in the squad and he’s got the backing of the club to do that.

“With the [presidential] elections at Barcelona on 24 January, it’s a good time to say ‘I won’t be part of that’ or ‘you cannot use my name’. But also, it’s time for everybody to focus on the job at hand and nobody should be thinking about leaving, because he’s staying on.”

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Champions League win ‘never a demand’ by Man City

Guardiola’s European record has been questioned, as it is nine years since the second of his two Champions League wins as a manager.

He has failed to lead City past the quarter-finals in four attempts but Balague says winning the Champions League “was never a demand” by the City board.

“If he doesn’t get the Champions League, that’ll be a stick he gets hit with for the rest of his time at Manchester City,” he added.

“What Guardiola was asked to do was dominate the domestic titles and be regulars in, say, the semi-finals of the Champions League. That hasn’t happened yet, not so much to win it but to actually be competing for it, so I’m sure there is an incentive in doing that.

“I’m not sure Manchester City will ever ask Guardiola to win the Champions League as a condition. But, if you look at some of the results that happened to them, they could have gone the other way.

“I’m sure Pep Guardiola would like it to go their way and confirm that Manchester City belong in that elite of the top four or top six European teams.”

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