Pep Guardiola's side take on Spurs on Saturday
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Txiki Begiristain has admitted Pep Guardiola’s decision to stay at Manchester City will significantly improve the club’s prospects of attracting the best players as the manager left the door open to a move for Lionel Messi.
Guardiola pledged his long-term future to City on Thursday when he signed a two-year contract extension that will tie him to the club until June 2023.
City, who are in the process of rebuilding the squad, are monitoring Messi’s situation at Barcelona with interest and have long felt that they would be at the head of the queue if the Argentina forward does decide to leave the Nou Camp.
Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and will be free to talk to foreign suitors from January, although he is likely to wait until the outcome of the Barcelona presidential election that month and see how the season progresses before making any decision on his future.
Begiristain, City’s director of football, who worked with Guardiola in a similar role at Barcelona, is responsible for shaping the club’s transfer strategy.
But the former Barcelona player said Guardiola’s presence made his job of signing players much easier, and that would never be truer should the prospect of a reunion with the Catalan tempt Messi to Manchester next summer.
“We already have an unbelievable squad,” Begiristain said. “We have a lot of top players but the life of the squad is always changing. There are some players asking to leave, there are other players that want to come.
“There are players that think they want to play more than the other ones, so this is the natural life of a squad, so what is very very good for the club and for my job is having Pep [here]. It’s quite easy.
“It’s quite easy to convince the players to come because we have to recognise as well that Pep makes the players better so they can see an improvement and that is obvious and that helps to sign the players for Man City.”
Guardiola has been asked repeatedly during his tenure as City manager about the prospect of signing Messi, with whom he won three La Liga titles and two Champions League at Barcelona. But while Guardiola repeated his hope that, as a Barcelona fan, Messi finishes his career at the club, he admitted it remained to be seen what the player decides to do.
Pep Guardiola issues instructions to Lionel Messi in 2010
“I would like as a Barcelona fan for Leo to finish there,” Guardiola said ahead of Saturday’s game at Tottenham. “But he finishes this year the contract and I don’t know what’s going to happen in his mind.
“Right now he is a Barcelona player and the transfer market will be in June and July. If you ask me my opinion as a person, I have a huge gratitude for what Barcelona has done for me – in the academy as a football player and, after, as a manager, it gave me absolutely everything.
“What I want is to finish his career there. I would love it, I would wish it.”
Begiristain said he and Guardiola did not always see eye-to-eye over targets but, in the main, share the same vision of the game as he backed the manager to bring further success to City.
“Of course we have different opinions but we try to convince each other and the good thing is we have played together, the same football where we had the same unbelievable coach in Johan Cruyff,” Begiristain said. “So our philosophy is the same so the kind of players that we need to get it done are the same. The other thing is we are friends so that helps, of course.
“Pep’s always in a constant evolution. He’s not the same now as he was in 2008 when he was at Barcelona, he’s not the same now as he was in Bayern and I’d even say he’s not the same as he was in his first season [at City].
“Why? Because he can see the things that opponents are doing and changing so he has to try to beat them and he’s always in an evolution. It’s not like he’s playing 4-3-3 every time. He’s changing, adapting because we has to show the work to the players and the players are obeying him which is the main thing.
“We are showing the same ambition as we did since the first day. We have to continue to show that. I can see all the players are running and working in the training sessions and the games and the future of this club is absolutely guaranteed with him and the squad that we have.”
City are likely to welcome back striker Sergio Aguero against Spurs after four weeks out with a hamstring injury and Raheem Sterling is also expected to be fit after missing the England internationals with a calf problem.