Pep Guardiola claims he has been given more power than ever before in his career as he seeks to shape Manchester City’s future.
Guardiola’s first season in charge at City looks set to end in under-achievement after Champions League elimination at the last-16 stage and a failure to mount a sustained Premier League title challenge.
Wednesday’s unexpected defeat at Monaco in the European competition has sparked rumours of a summer squad clear-out at the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola denies wholesale changes are necessary but has revealed he will have a strong say in the players brought in. Player recruitment has been primarily led by director of football Txiki Begiristain in recent years.
Guardiola said: “All the managers and sporting directors want to improve and get better. Even the team that wins the triple will still make changes, so a team that does not win the Champions League or gets to the final will make changes. I knew that.
“I met the big boss (owner) Sheikh Mansour in Abu Dhabi and I know the plan. We are thinking (of how) to get better.
“For players and managers, it depends on the results, but I want to be involved in that as much as possible, and to help my team to make the next step and I have more power than ever in my life as a manager.
“For me it’s a big challenge and I want to deal with that.”
Guardiola said he received a text message from City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak after the Champions League loss and suggested it was a supportive one.
“In the good moments and bad moments, especially in the bad moments, I am really impressed,” he said. “I appreciate that a lot.”
Six of City’s squad - Yaya Toure, Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna and Jesus Navas - are out of contract at the end of the season. Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony, Joe Hart, Eliaqium Mangala and Jason Denayer are out on loan and looking unlikely to return.
In addition, there has been speculation of the futures of Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, Claudio Bravo, Fernando and Fabian Delph.
Despite all that uncertainty, Guardiola insists the core of the squad will stay together.
Guardiola said: “I am so happy with the squad. Speculation is normal when you are out of a competition, it happens everywhere not just the Premier League.
“I have said many times I’m so happy working with the guys and how they try to do and their performances. We’re going to improve a lot next season and a lot of these guys will be here next season.”
Toure has said he would like to stay at City but, with no offer yet forthcoming, his agent has revealed discussions with other clubs have begun.
Guardiola said: “All these issues we’ll talk about at the end of the season.”
Tomorrow, Guardiola resumes his rivalry with Jurgen Klopp, in the 10th fixture between the two managers. The pair battled it out for two seasons in the Bundesliga in charge of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively and while Liverpool’s win over Manchester City earlier this season handed Klopp a 5-4 lead in the head-to-head standings, Guardiola can point to a German Cup win in 2014.
Liverpool boss Klopp does not agree with the scrutiny Guardiola is coming under but that does not mean he will be sympathetic towards the Catalan this weekend.
Klopp has warned his squad they cannot afford to be passive at the Etihad Stadium or they risk being bypassed by City’s ball players and so the plan is likely to be to go on the attack.
Monaco did it for 45 minutes in the south of France in midweek to wipe out a two-goal deficit but found themselves under pressure after the break and only a late goal which levelled the aggregate score at 6-6 allowed them to progress on away goals.
Guardiola and his players were criticised for squandering a two-goal advantage from the first leg and with fourth-placed Liverpool only a point behind going into this weekend’s clash the pressure is on to bounce back.
“I am not in doubt about his quality. Maybe a few people are but I am not. I respect him a lot,” said Klopp.
“I know probably a few people think (differently) now they are out of the Champions League but I think the way they played was quite impressive as Monaco.
“City could have won the game easily in the second-half but because they are human beings they missed a few chances.
“For me, City is the most difficult team to play. I know their image at this moment in this country is a little bit different.
“I’ve heard about Pep Guardiola’s style and all that stuff but it is real football and it is difficult to defend against them and a lot of teams have failed already.
“If you are passive against City you have no chance. You have to be active and to be active you need to be brave.
“Monaco couldn’t do it for two halves: in the first-half they were good, second-half it was chance after chance (for City) and we cannot hope (Sergio) Aguero misses these chances again.”
Having dominated at Barcelona and Bayern Munich with admittedly better squads in less competitive leagues Guardiola has found life more difficult in England. And Klopp understands why.
“The squad Pep Guardiola had at Barcelona was the perfect role model for a win-win situation: having all these ideas with players who can obviously fulfil all the plans he had was fantastic and an outstanding combination.
“Bayern Munich was another good generation; good players at the best age and then this world-class manager.
“There was not a second team in Germany. We (Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund) tried to be it as hard as possible but for different reasons it was not possible.
“It is a big difference coming here, the most difficult league in the world.
“A lot of teams have a lot of money and a lot of teams have a lot of good players and that is the one thing which makes it really difficult to become champions in England.
“What is more than in other countries is the result is everything. No-one cares how you get a result, no-one.
“In other countries with a few styles of play you would play with the stadium empty. Here it is different. Everything is legal but the culture is different.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved