Pep Guardiola expressed his anger at stories published suggesting he tried to sign a number of Barcelona players this summer.
It’s been claimed the Manchester City player tried to tempt several of Barça’s stars to England, including Messi, but on his return to the city ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash he dismissed the reports.
“I have not called any Barcelona players,” he said in his pre-game press conference.
“I know that some wars are lost before they’ve started [in reference to rumours]. I know this place and I know how things move.
“I called Thiago because my brother was his representative.
“Three years ago [when at Barça] I called Neymar to recommend he signed for Barça.
“I heard things got complicated and [Real] Madrid were involved and I tried to sign him for Bayern when I was in New York, then his dad called me and said Barça was still an option, so I said go to Barça.
“This summer I didn’t call anyone. Not Messi, Busquets, Iniesta, Neymar, nobody. I called ter Stegen because he wasn’t happy not playing, but he decided to stay and later we spoke with Bravo.
“I didn’t call Messi. What I want is for him to ends his career here. He will decide when to leave Barça.
But Pep Guardiola has admitted he tried to sign Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the summer before eventually signing his teammate Claudio Bravo.
Guardiola wanted a new goalkeeper at the Etihad Stadium, who was comfortable with the ball at his feet and looked to the Nou Camp where Ter Stegen and Bravo were sharing their duties as a No. 1.
Ter Stegen was Barcelona’s cup keeper, featuring in the Blaugrana’s Champions League and Copa del Rey campaigns while Bravo played in La Liga matches.
The German international had previously indicated splitting time with Bravo was not in his best interest, but decided to stay with the Catalan club and is now fist choice for European and La Liga games after the Chilean keeper’s exit.
“I knew that [Ter Stegen] wanted to play all the time and I got in touch with him,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City’s Champions League with Barca on Wednesday.
“We needed a keeper like Claudio or Ter Stegen — we got Claudio and Ter Stegen stayed.”
However, the Catalan insisted he had not tried to sign any other players from the club he managed for four years, despite reports in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo claiming he wanted Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Sergio Busquets.
Guardiola said he hopes that Messi plays his entire career at Barcelona, but said there would be huge interest from the Premier League if he ever considered a move to England.
“This summer I never called Messi, Neymar, Busquets, Suarez or anybody. If ever I have called a Barca player it is because he doesn’t get playing time. And look, if I did, I would be well within my rights because Barca calls City players.
“I never called Messi — What I most want is for him to play here and finish his career here.
“But maybe he wants to go somewhere else, maybe he wants his kids to speak English or live a different experience, like happened to many of us. Maybe it could happen..
“If it happens there would be a list of six, seven or eight clubs, who want to sign him and it will be down to Messi where he wants to go.
“I am lucky to have the chance to sit down and spell this all out today. If you don’t believe me, those who have published this and have a good relationship with [Barcelona president Josep] Bartomeu, they should call him and ask him themselves.”
Pep Guardiola has opened the door to Manchester City making a sensational move for Lionel Messi if the Argentina superstar ever quits Barcelona.
City are confident they would be at the front of the queue for Messi in the event of him leaving his spiritual home at the Nou Camp, and believe Guardiola’s appointment has only strengthened their position.
The former Barca coach believes Messi, 29, could be tempted by a new challenge.
Asked about facing the Argentine, who made a goalscoring return from a groin injury at the weekend, Guardiola added: ‘I’m going to play against Barca first of all, not Messi. But the best player is Leo, of course
‘I’m happy that he recovered from injury. I’m happy to see him back on the pitch. It’s always a great to see him play. I’m glad he’s fit for tomorrow.
‘I have always thought that with great players – Leo, Neymar, Suarez – when they have the ball they are very good. You need to be aggressive, intense, and make them have the ball as little as possible. We should try to avoid that.
‘I don’t know what instructions I can give to the players to control the talent – 90 minutes is a along time. They will have a moment and they are so precise. They don’t need many chances to score a goal. That is the big talent of the strikers at Barcelona.’
The Spaniards have knocked City out of the Champions League on two occasions, and Guardiola admits that Wednesday’s Group C encounter in the Nou Camp will give him a valuable insight into how far his team have progressed in a short time under him.
‘It’s a good test for us to know how is our level against, for me, the best team,’ he said. ‘What I want tomorrow is the points to go through to the next round, but to be ourselves. I need it my team as quickly as possible and tomorrow is a good chance to know our level. We’re just a few months working together, and I’m still getting to know my players.
‘But it’s not a friendly game. We need points and we’re going to try to win them. Tomorrow I would like to go home to Manchester with a good result and be closer to next stage.’