SHENZHEN, China, July 25 – Pep Guardiola has denied dictating to his Manchester City squad exactly what they can eat and said no player is overweight, after Gael Clichy claimed the new manager had banned junk food and exiled out-of-shape stars.
Speaking in China, where City are on a money-spinning pre-season tour, the French defender told the Guardian newspaper and other British media that former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach Guardiola had wasted no time in laying down the law.
“You often hear managers say being healthy is really important. With him, if your weight is too high, you’re not training with the team. That is the first thing and you can hear it a lot, but for my part it’s the first time any manager has really done it,” Clichy said.
“So we have a few players who are not training with the team yet.
“He cut out some juice and pizza and all the heavy food is not allowed,” added the 31-year-old.
There has been plenty of attention paid to Guardiola’s new regime on and off the pitch since his high-profile arrival this summer, but the Spaniard denied taking a dictatorial approach with his players.
“The nutritionist is the boss. I’m not a chef. He decides what they have to eat,” he said, speaking in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, the latest leg of their stop-start China tour.
He also denied his players had returned to training out of shape: “No, they are not overweight.
“I want my players fit. For me that is important… I need to get my players absolutely fit.”
– ‘No holiday’ –
City’s pre-season preparations took a hit on Monday when their derby against Manchester United was called off because of the poor pitch at Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium, following heavy rain.
Guardiola, who will be under pressure to inspire ambitious City to silverware in his first season, now wants to get on with the business of playing football.
He revealed that the club were making a frantic push to line up an English Championship or non-league club for a friendly next week to replace the lost Beijing game.
“We haven’t travelled here to China for just a holiday, we have travelled here to play games,” said Guardiola. “Maybe it’s a lesson for the people who organised the games. The pitch is the most important thing.”
The City players arrived in Shenzhen on Tuesday and were given scorching late afternoon workouts, and again Wednesday, as they dusted off the disappointment of the cancelled Manchester derby.
Guardiola said he had been enjoying putting the City players through their paces and assessing the quality at his disposal.
“Every manager has his own ideas,” he said. “But it’s impossible to achieve even one victory if the players don’t want it. They are comfortable with the challenge and they are trying to understand me and I am trying to understand them as soon as possible.”
The heat in Shenzhen remains as it was in Beijing — baking — but there seems little chance of any similar heavy downpours.
City have been able to get on with the business at hand — getting match-ready for Borussia Dortmund, who breezed past United 4-1 in Shanghai last Friday.
Guardiola’s men can expect a tough test on Thursday from last season’s Bundesliga runners-up in front of what is expected to be a sell-out crowd of around 40,000 at the Shenzhen Universiade stadium.
The Spaniard revealed he had been singling out his midfielders for extra work when it came to tracking back to help the defence.
Midfielder Fabian Delph, who joined his boss to meet the press before Wednesday’s workout, said City’s players knew what they were in for when Guardiola signed on.
“If you can’t follow the regime, you fall short,” said Delph.