‘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.”


Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard beat Tunisia and power Belgium to brink of World Cup last 16

Updated 23 June 2018
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Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard beat Tunisia and power Belgium to brink of World Cup last 16

  • Romelu Lukaku drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on Saturday
  • Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored in either half, including an early penalty at the Spartak Stadium

MOSCOW: Romelu Lukaku drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on Saturday, scoring twice as Belgium moved to the brink of the last 16 after a 5-2 romp against Tunisia.
The victory leaves the Red Devils top of Group G with two wins ahead of their clash on Thursday against England, who play Panama on Sunday.
After also scoring twice in the opening 3-0 win against Panama, Manchester United’s Lukaku showed clinical finishing with two first-half goals in Moscow, matching Ronaldo’s tally in Russia.
Not to be outdone, Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored in either half, including an early penalty at the Spartak Stadium, before substitute Michy Batshuayi added their fifth.
Tunisia’s consolation goals came from defender Dylan Bronn and captain Wahbi Khazri.
The Belgians were criticized by coach Roberto Martinez for starting slowly against Panama in their first group match but flew out of the blocks in Moscow.
Hazard — having been on the receiving end of some bruising tackles in Belgium’s opener — was sent tumbling after just five minutes but converted the penalty to open his Russian account.
Midfielder Ferjani Sassi picked up an early booking for complaining when Tunisia’s appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears, just before Belgium added their second goal.
Ali Maaloul’s weak pass on the halfway line was collected by Dries Mertens, who sprinted away and put Lukaku clear.
The striker coolly hit his shot inside the far post, just past the outstretched glove of Tunisia keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha, in the 16th minute.
Tunisia responded two minutes later, Bronn leaping highest to head home a free-kick from his skipper Khazri on 18 minutes, only to be later carried off after landing awkwardly following a collision.
With half-time approaching, the Belgians grabbed their third goal.
After earlier squandering two clear chances created by Kevin De Bruyne, Lukaku converted his third opportunity just before the half-time whistle.
Thomas Meunier put him in behind the defense and Lukaku tucked his shot away, celebrating with De Bruyne, who started the move.
The Manchester City midfield maestro turned provider again after the break for Hazard.
The Chelsea star sprinted onto De Bruyne’s lofted pass, held off two defenders, rounded keeper Ben Mustapha and tapped home Belgium’s fourth goal in the 51st minute.
With one eye on the England game, Martinez took off Lukaku, then Hazard as the half wore on and for the final 22 minutes brought on Batshuayi, who could have scored five.
The Borussia Dortmund forward had a chance cleared off the line, was twice denied by Ben Mustapha’s saves and hit the crossbar, finally converting a cross for Belgium’s fifth goal.
Tunisia captain Khazri grabbed their second goal just before the final whistle of their second defeat in Russia.