English Premiership

Guardiola cools Messi talk

2016-07-04 11:25
Lionel Messi and his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Pep Guardiola began life as Manchester City manager on Sunday by dismissing any chance of signing Lionel Messi and outlining his determination to silence critics who doubt he will be able to replicate his success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Guardiola, possibly the most coveted coach in world soccer, was welcomed by an estimated 6,000 City supporters at a fan event at the club's Etihad Stadium campus.

Presented alongside six players from across City's various teams, in front of a screen bearing the motto "It Begins," Guardiola was relaxed - even to the point of answering a question from a heckling fan about whether Messi would be following him to City.

"He's not a bad player, this guy," Guardiola responded, "but I am sorry, Messi has to stay in Barcelona for the rest of his career."

Guardiola has won 22 trophies - including the Champions League twice - since 2008, firstly with a Messi-inspired Barcelona until 2012 and then at Bayern Munich from 2013-16.

City will be the biggest challenge of his career, though, given the strength in depth of the Premier League. City finished fourth in the league last season in Manuel Pellegrini's last year in charge.

"I proved myself where I was born in Barcelona and after I proved myself in Germany," Guardiola said, "and I want to prove myself here."

In an interview conducted by musician Noel Gallagher and published on City's in-house TV channel, Guardiola also talked about answering the doubters.

"I know how hard the Premier League is, and some people have said that I will find it hard to play the football I like to play in England," Guardiola said. "So I said to myself, 'Why not?' That's why I'm here — because I want to try."

"I came here to learn," Guardiola told the supporters, "to learn how the people live here, for my family, for my kids. That's why I'm always curious to move in Europe and learn what it's like to live in England."

Guardiola said he will need time to get to know his players. The Spaniard will have an eight-strong backroom team including four assistant coaches, one of whom will be Mikel Arteta after the midfielder chose to retire following five seasons at Arsenal.

Arteta began his career at Barcelona with its junior sides, when Guardiola was playing for the Spanish club's first team.

Rodolfo Borrell, Messi's first coach at Barca with a reputation for nurturing young talent, will also be an assistant coach.

Guardiola had a trial at City in 2005, when Stuart Pearce was the manager, but wasn't offered a contract.

"One of my dreams would have been to play here like a football player," he said. "It was not possible and now my dream has come true."

Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan and Spain forward Nolito have already joined City this off-season as Guardiola begins reshaping the squad.


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