MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, July 4 – Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players that they have to prove themselves all over again following his arrival at the club.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach was making his first public appearance as City handler on Sunday in front of thousands of fans at a festival held at their Academy Stadium.
The Spaniard is already familiar with the players he is inheriting, having faced his new club in Champions League contests in two of his three seasons at Bayern Munich.
In addition, the new manager has also been able to glean information on the squad from director of football Txiki Begiristain, a close friend going back to their days together as Barcelona players.
Guardiola has also moved quickly to bring in new talent, signing German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan from Borussia Dortmund for £20million and Spain winger Nolito from Celta Vigo for £13.8million.
But he insists that all of his players are starting with a clean slate – regardless of what they have achieved in the past.
Guardiola said: “I know them. I have played against Manchester City in the last two or three years many times. I spoke many times with Txiki too.
“I know them, I know their quality but they have to show me, show the fans again. The past is the past. The people don’t come here to remember what we did. We are here to try again.”
Guardiola has indicated that he will not seek to inflame a long-running rivalry with Jose Mourinho, who took charge of City’s neighbours Manchester United in late May.
The two managers were involved in a number of public verbal confrontations in the two years between Mourinho’s arrival at Real Madrid in 2010 and Guardiola’s departure from Barcelona in 2012.
That rivalry reached its low point during a Spanish Super Cup meeting in 2011, when Mourinho was captured on camera poking Guardiola’s then-assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye during a touchline brawl.
The north west of England will host several of football’s big managerial names next season, with Jurgen Klopp in place at Liverpool and Ronald Koeman in charge at Everton, but Guardiola insists that the focus should be on the players.
“The people don’t come to see who the manager is, they come to see how good our players are. I don’t think just that’s just the case this year, but in the past as well, with Klopp, with Conte, with Ranieri, Mourinho Pochettino, Koeman. The reason I work here is just to help the players.”
Guardiola, meanwhile, laughed off suggestions that he was about to make an attempt to bring five-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi to City.
The Barcelona forward, who retired from international football last week, won two of his four Champions League titles when Guardiola was the club’s manager.
But asked about the possibility of a reunion in Manchester, Guardiola said: “He is not a bad player, this guy. But I am sorry – Messi has to stay in Barcelona for the rest of his career.”