MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola added spice to Saturday’s derby clash by saying Manchester United’s France midfielder Paul Pogba had been offered to him for sale by the player’s agent in January.
Guardiola told a news conference on Friday that despite a feud between himself and top agent Mino Raiola, the Italian-Dutch agent offered Pogba to him in January along with Armenia midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who eventually joined Arsenal.
The Spanish coach, whose team will win the Premier League title with victory over United at the Etihad Stadium, was asked for his reaction to a recent Dutch media interview in which Raiola was quoted as calling him “a coward” and a “dog”.
Guardiola initially said he did not want to respond but then went on to say: “Finally, the people discover my secrets, I am a bad guy. I’m a coward. I don’t understand why I am a such a bad guy. I never speak with him. But being a guy, like two months ago he offered me Mkhitaryan and Pogba to play with us. Why?
“Why (did) he offer? He was interested in Mkhitaryan and Pogba playing with us? So he has to protect his players and he has to know so he cannot bring the players a guy like me, like a dog. And comparing (me to) a dog is bad. It’s not good. He has to respect the dogs.”
Guardiola’s comments have added fuel to the rumours that Pogba is unhappy at United under coach Jose Mourinho, but Raiola denied that he had talked to the City manager, while not explicitly rejecting the notion he may have spoken to the club.
“I never spoke to Pep Guardiola. I would not speak to him about players; I would speak to Manchester City. They are a fantastic club with a fantastic manager,” he told the BBC.
United did not immediately respond when asked to comment but it appears unlikely they would have sold the 89 million pounds ($125.34 million) player to their league title and local rivals.
Guardiola said that Pogba was “an incredible player. A top, top player,” but that he rejected the approach.
“I said no. We don’t have enough money to buy Pogba because he is so expensive,” added the Spaniard.
($1 = 0.7101 pounds)
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris