‘I wasn’t good enough to play for Wigan,’ says Man City boss Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola said he almost joined Wigan before moving to Qatar. (Reuters)
Updated 20 February 2018
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‘I wasn’t good enough to play for Wigan,’ says Man City boss Pep Guardiola

MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola will finally step out at Wigan Athletic’s DW Stadium in Manchester City’s fifth-round FA Cup tie with the third-tier side on Monday — 13 years after he almost joined the Lancashire club as a player.
The Spanish midfielder was looking to extend his playing career, as a 34-year-old, in 2005 and contacted a number of Premier League clubs — including Wigan, then managed by Paul Jewell.
Barcelona legend Guardiola also held talks with City’s manager at the time, Stuart Pearce, but eventually accepted a more lucrative offer in Qatar before eventually moving to a Mexican club.
Now, as manager of a City team that is still aiming for silverware in four major competitions this season, Guardiola will experience a little of what he turned down in Wigan.
“Yeah, it was years ago,” said Guardiola. “But I was not good enough! That is the truth, yeah.
“I was old, really old, as a football player to come here. I tried to come here to play in English football but I was not able. The same happened when I came here to Manchester City, with Stuart Pearce. They were so clever!,” he added.
“They were so clever because I was not good enough! Wigan were interested in me, I didn’t choose the club. It didn’t happen and that’s all.”
Jewell recalled the episode differently, claiming in a recent interview he had made Guardiola an offer and expected him to sign, only to receive a phone call from the player’s agent to say he had received a “mind-blowing” proposal from Qatar.
Wigan, of course, have fallen on hard times since that era and the heights of the 2013 FA Cup Final when they famously defeated City, then managed by Roberto Mancini.
Relegated that same season, Wigan now find themselves in League One although they have already claimed the scalps of Premier League sides Bournemouth and West Ham in their FA Cup run this season.
Despite the threat posed by Wigan, however, Guardiola is adamant that back-up goalkeeper Claudio Bravo will remain his first choice for domestic cup competitions.
And that guarantee seems to assure the Chilean of starting for City in this coming Sunday’s League Cup Final meeting with Arsenal — Premier League leaders City’s first opportunity to secure one of the four trophies they are currently chasing.
“He’s going to play, Claudio,” said Guardiola. “We are in the Carabao (League) Cup Final thanks to him. So I cannot forget what happened, he saved two rounds of penalties, and the way he played — the safest, in the Carabao Cup.
“That is the decision this season. The other (competitions), we will see. The goalkeeper’s a different position to the other 10 team mates but, you know, it all depends on the performance and the quality but in this competition Claudio is going to play.”
The 34-year-old Chilean lost his first team place last summer when Guardiola signed young Brazilian Ederson, who has been in inspired form this season.
Bravo has not started a single Premier League game in the current campaign although his manager insists his selection as ‘cup keeper’ is not simply in order to keep him satisfied.
“I don’t do that to keep him happy,” said Guardiola. “It’s because in the top clubs we need two good goalkeepers so you cannot survive with just one goalkeeper — if he is injured, suspended, something like that and the other one doesn’t have the level.
“So all the big clubs who play a lot of competitions have two good goalkeepers and we have.
“His reaction has been perfect. I know for the players, not just Claudio, when they don’t play regularly it’s not an easy situation.”


Time for the Sun to shine on Hyderabad in the IPL

Updated 22 March 2019
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Time for the Sun to shine on Hyderabad in the IPL

  • Can MS Dhoni lead the Super Kings to another IPL title?
  • Who are the players to watch out for?

LONDON: The 12th edition of the Indian Premier League gets underway today with the usual razzmatazz, stacks of cash — in cricketing terms at least, pure conspicuous consumption — on display. This is the form of leather on willow that is as close to pure Americana as you are going to find.
As much as $15 million was shelled out at this year’s auction on 60 players. You only have to look at the riches the players are now earning to realize why every big-hitting batsman or wily bowler wants a piece of the IPL. Varun Chakravarthy went for $1.2 million, a millionaire overnight having not even played for his country.
Once again the Chennai Super Kings are the team to beat. Under MS Dhoni the powerhouses have won three titles — a record they share with the Mumbai Indians.
Here we give you the lowdown on cricket’s brashest format and take a peek into our crystal ball to tell you what we think is going to happen.

DELHI CAPITALS (8th last year)

Have only made the last four three times, finished rock bottom last year and decided something had to change. So they changed their name from the Daredevils to the Capitals, the new name as prosaic as their past cricket. They have added Shikhar Dhawan for power at the top of the order and to compliment the decent bowling attack of Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: The only way is up but will finish outside the top four.

RAJASTHAN ROYALS (4th)

The winners of the first IPL they have made the last four three times since. A look at their batting line-up — Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Ajinkya Rahane — will always trouble the opposition bowlers and with Jofra Archer and Jaydev Unadkat in the attack will always take wickets. Can they back up their impressive team sheet with equally impressive results?
ARAB NEWS SAYS: Will reach the last four but will miss the departing Stokes and Buttler who leave for a pre-World Cup training camp.

KINGS PUNJAB (7th)

An impressive spin attack of Ravi Ashwin, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Chakravarthy will once again prove that T20, once thought to be the graveyard for slow bowlers, is a game built just for them. They will look for West Indies legend Chris Gayle to find his big-hitting range early on to give them the totals to defend.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: Could prove to be the surprise package if, and it is a big if, their big names fire. We think they will just miss out on the last four.

Will Chris Gayle fire again this season? (AFP)

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE (6th)

One look at their batting line-up is enough to give any bowler the dreaded yips. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers could have their very own “who is the greatest short-form batsman of all-time” competition. The addition of Marcus Stoinis will give the side more balance and a chance of winning their first title.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: A side with Kohli and De Villiers cannot go three years without a top-four finish.

MUMBAI INDIANS (5th)

The Manchester United of the IPL, they have won three titles and with Rohit Sharma as captain, and a settled side — Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah just three of the retained stars — will always be a danger. But they finished outside the top four last year and perhaps miss a bit of fire power in the batting department.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: Another year outside the top four.

Virat Kohli is dangerous no matter what the format. (AFP) 

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS (3)

Last year’s top-four finish was a surprise and there is the sense they will struggle to match that this time around. With Windies stars Carlos Brathwaite and Andre Russell in the side and spin king Sunil Narine they will always have a chance but it is perhaps expecting too much to repeat last season’s surge to the semis.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: They will not be able to repeat last year’s heroics and will finish in sixth.

CHENNAI SUPER KINGS (Champions)

The team to beat, they have kept most of their title-winning side from last year and still have MS Dhoni — will he ever retire? — at the helm. It is hard to make a case for them not reaching the final, harder still not making the last four. If there is one possible worry is it that they have not strengthened much over the winter.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: In the last four.

SUNRISERS HYDERABAD (2nd)

Will still be smarting from their heavy defeat in the final at the hands of Chennai last year. They look to have the strongest batting line-up with Kane Williamson, Martin Guptil, Jonny Bairstow and David Warner to share the big-hitting responsibilities and with spinner of the moment Rashid Khan they will always be able to take wickets.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: Champions