‘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.”


Arsenal, Chelsea win in Europa League as Rangers hold Villarreal

Aubameyang opened the scoring in London after 32 minutes of the Group E encounter. (Reuters)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Arsenal, Chelsea win in Europa League as Rangers hold Villarreal

  • I think we played well in the first half and in the beginning of the second as well: Aubameyang
  • Chelsea made a winning start to their Group L campaign as Willian's seventh-minute effort was enough to see off PAOK

PARIS: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck twice as Arsenal defeated Ukraine's Vorskla Poltava 4-2 in the Europa League on Thursday, while in-form Chelsea began their campaign with a 1-0 win away to PAOK in Greece.
Aubameyang has struggled to hit top gear in the Premier League so far with just one goal in five starts, but the Gabon striker opened the scoring in London after 32 minutes of the Group E encounter.
Danny Welbeck nodded in a second just after half-time and Aubameyang curled in the Gunners' third, with Mesut Ozil also on target before a lapse in concentration saw Vorskla hit back with two late goals.
"I think we played well in the first half and in the beginning of the second as well," Aubameyang told BT Sport.
"We have to improve and try to fight not to concede a goal like we did in the last minute."
Premier League leaders Chelsea made a winning start to their Group L campaign as Willian's seventh-minute effort was enough to see off PAOK at a hostile Toumba Stadium.
Eden Hazard was omitted from the Chelsea squad at his own request due to fatigue, but manager Maurizio Sarri fielded a strong side as the Blues extended their winning run to six games in all competitions.
"We were in control of the match for 90 minutes. We had a lot of opportunities. We missed them and so I'm very happy with the three points, very happy with the performance, but not very happy with the result," said Sarri.
"When it's time to kill the match, we have to kill the match."
Steven Gerrard's Rangers acquitted themselves well on their first appearance in the group stage of a European competition since the 2010-11 Champions League, as they came away with a 2-2 draw against Villarreal.
A disastrous start for the Glasgow side saw Carlos Bacca fire Villarreal ahead inside 60 seconds, but Scott Arfield turned home a cross from Daniel Candeias to level on 67 minutes.
Gerard Moreno put the hosts back in front almost immediately, only for Kyle Lafferty to again hit back for Rangers as Gerrard's men made a solid start in Group G.
Leigh Griffiths hit a late winner for Celtic in a 1-0 home victory over Rosenborg, a team Brendan Rodgers' side knocked out in this season's Champions League qualifying rounds.
Salzburg triumphed in the clash of Red Bulls in the other Group B fixture as Fredrik Gulbrandsen scored a minute from time to give the Austrian club a 3-2 victory over RB Leipzig.
Marseille, last season's runners-up, slumped to a 2-1 home defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt in Group H as Luka Jovic grabbed an 89th-minute winner for the reigning German Cup champions.
Lucas Ocampos opened the scoring early for Marseille, who were playing behind closed doors at the Stade Velodrome after numerous crowd incidents last season.
But Lucas Torro levelled on 52 minutes for Eintracht before Jovic's late strike won it.
Dudelange, the first Luxembourg team to play in the Europa League group stage, made seven-time European champions AC Milan work hard for a 1-0 win in Group F.
Luxembourg's Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa were in the crowd as Dudelange, who have a dozen non-professional players in their squad, succumbed to a deflected second-half goal by Gonzalo Higuain.
Record five-time winners Sevilla launched their Group J campaign with a 5-1 rout of Standard Liege, as Ever Banega and Wissam Ben Yedder both netted twice for the Spaniards.