Pep Guardiola has hit out at a newspaper that claimed he called Lionel Messi and Neymar in an attempt to sign them for Manchester City this summer.
Barcelona paper Mundo Deportivo ran a front page story in September claiming that Guardiola had tried to persuade the two players to join him in Manchester, and that City’s CEO, Ferran Soriano, had held up to three meetings with Messi’s camp.
But Guardiola, speaking at Camp Nou ahead of City’s Champions League clash with his former club Barca, took the opportunity to give a lengthy riposte.
He insists he did not call any Barca player directly this summer, although he did reveal he spoke to his former employers about Marc-Andre ter Stegen before clinching a deal for Claudio Bravo - and even interrupted the next question to add one final jibe.
“I didn't call any player on the phone,” he stated. “I know there are wars that are lost before they are even started. I don't want to justify my words and compare them against what has been said. It would be nice if both versions of the story were contrasted. Nobody has called me.
“I called Thiago at the time [in 2013] because his representative was my brother and we managed to sign him for Bayern. We saw a good opportunity.
"A couple of years ago I called Neymar to sign him for Barca. Sandro Rossell, the president, saw an opportunity to do it and we phoned him up. When I was in New York it was not clear if Real Madrid would sign him and I called his father to see if there was a chance. I spoke to him and said, 'If you have a chance I think you should go to Barcelona' and you can call Neymar's dad if you want. He decided to come to Barcelona in the end.
“As for Ter Stegen I knew that he wanted to play all the time. We got in touch. He wasn't happy with his situation. We needed a goalkeeper like Claudio [Bravo] or Ter Stegen. Claudio came and Ter Stegen decided to stay. If I ever called a player playing in any other it would be in a special situation of not playing, and it would be my right to. It is okay, I could have phoned someone if he was not playing, but I never called Leo Messi.
"In the case of Leo I really wish him to play here [at Barca] and finish his career here. Play here for a long time. But maybe he will think, 'okay I want to go play somewhere else' because maybe he wants his kids to speak English or live a different experience, like has happened to many of us. Maybe it could happen, but if he decides to go and it happens, there would be a list of seven or eight clubs that would want to sign him, and it would be down to him. Messi will decide where to go.
And, as a reporter prepared to ask another question, Guardiola interjected to add: “Oh, and something else about this. If you don't believe me, because I know the people who published this have a good rapport with president Bartomeu, maybe they can call him. I know they have the phone number. Maybe he can corroborate my story.”