Pep Guardiola insists Man City's stability was more important than Alexis Sanchez

Andy Hampson 20/01/2018
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Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City’s future stability was more important than signing Alexis Sanchez.

The Premier League leaders pulled out of the race for the wantaway Arsenal forward this week because of the spiralling costs involved.

That cleared the way for arch-rivals Manchester United to move for the Chile international, with reports suggesting they are prepared to pay the player close to £500,000 per week in wages and other bonuses.

That would be on top of a player-exchange deal believed to be the equivalent of a £35million transfer fee, as well as agents’ charges.

City may be among the richest clubs in the world, and have been willing to pay top-market rates in the past, but they baulked at those figures.

Guardiola has no complaints about the club’s decision, accepting that it could have created a difficult precedent.

The City manager said: “Normally we try to be stable with the wages of the players because I think it is good for the team and stability of the club.

“In the past, what the club did, was at that price.

“What happened last summer, everything increased amazingly. You have to adapt to that. I think the price in the summertime will be higher than this winter. Sometimes you have to anticipate that.

“We’ve spent a lot of money, we can’t deny that, but I’ve never put pressure on a club when they believe it is too much. Immediately I accept that decision and move forward to find another solution. The stability of the club is the most important thing.”

City were close to signing Sanchez last August after having an offer potentially worth up to £60million accepted by the Gunners.

It is understood they were convinced he still wanted to join them but preferred to wait until he was due to come out of contract at the end of the season.

With Sanchez keen to leave Arsenal in the current window they did reconsider but ultimately did not want to get into a bidding war and the 29-year-old now seems destined for Old Trafford.

Guardiola, who worked with Sanchez at Barcelona, claimed there were no hard feelings.

Speaking at a press conference, the Spaniard said: “It’s not the first time it happened in my career, that I wanted a player and they decided to move on to another club. It’s going to happen in the future. They decide to go there or wherever, so well done. No problem.”

Guardiola, whose side host Newcastle on Saturday, even went as far as to congratulate United for what now appears a certain transfer.

He said: “I’m not the guy with the mathematics, with the numbers. What I know now is he is still Arsenal’s player, but I think he is going to go to United.

“So, congratulations for both of them. The players and their managers (agents) decide where they want to play. Good luck.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi is La Liga's MVP and Ligue 1's is Nabil Fekir - The players of the season so far

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The winter break is over and now the majority of Europe is at the halfway stage which allows us to take stock of the players who striking it hot.

The narrative for each of the top five European leagues is largely in place with Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester City running away with their respective domestic titles.

There is much to play for in Serie A, however, but even in Italy the trend has been set in regards to the players who are firing on all cylinders.

With that in mind, we take a look at the leading light for each league to assess who is the player of the year for each so far.

BUNDESLIGA: Leon Bailey 

Games: 15

Goals: 6

Assists: 4

Key passes: 25

Chances created: 29

Successful take-ons: 28

Leon Bailey was allowed time to settle in at Bayer Leverkusen last season after his arrival last summer following an impressive two years at Genk. That patience in the 20-year-old Jamaican is already paying dividends this term.

The attacker has terrorised Bundesliga defenders with his explosive pace and dribbling, scoring six goals and providing four assists in 15 outings so far this season.

The Jamaican’s infectious personality has translated onto the pitch as well with his expressive style of play bringing a greater degree of positivity to Leverkusen’s attack.

His directness, delivery from wide areas and ability to score from range has seen him become one of the most dangerous players in the league.

LIGUE 1: Nabil Fekir 

Games: 18

Goals: 15

Assists: 4

Key passes: 26

Chances created: 30

Successful take-ons: 56

Paris Saint-Germain were always going to be the runaway favourites in Ligue 1 this season after adding the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to their ranks. However, Lyon have been impressive themselves, despite trailing the leaders by 11 points.

A large part of why they’re even in the hunt though is their influential skipper Nabil Fekir. The Frenchman has been at the heart of Lyon’s attacking play this season from his central attacking role.

At 24, Fekir is maturing into a dependable, consistent performer. With 15 goals and four assists in the league so far, he’s emerged as arguably the finest player in France’s top flight at the moment.

His deadly sharp-shooting, acceleration and vision have really come to the fore this season.

The Lyon talisman averages 2.3 key passes, 3.7 dribbles and 3.3 shots per game. It’s not a stretch to say that Fekir is as instrumental for his side as Lionel Messi is for Barcelona.

PREMIER LEAGUE: Kevin De Bruyne

Games: 23

Goals: 6

Assists: 9

Key passes: 59

Chances created: 68

Successful take-ons: 39

David Silva is still an influential figure at Manchester City but while his absence could somewhat neutralise them in seasons gone by, that’s not the case anymore. Instead, it’s Kevin de Bruyne who is the man that really makes them tick.

Pep Guardiola has reserved special praise for the Belgian in the past, holding only Messi in higher regard. The 26-year-old has come into his own in the last couple of seasons and is now one of the most complete midfielders in the world.

De Bruyne is a relentless machine, creating chance after chance for his team-mates. It also helps that his supreme fitness has seen him start every league game for City this term. He’s thrived under Guardiola’s possession-based system and will go down as the driving force behind the team’s success this season should they claim the Premier League title.

LA LIGA: Lionel Messi

Games: 19

Goals: 17

Assists: 8

Key passes: 41

Chances created: 49

Successful take-ons: 101

It’s a testament to how good Lionel Messi is that not much has been made of his brilliant form this season. So he has 17 goals and eight assists in just 19 games? No big deal. It’s just what Messi does.

However, you only need to look over at Cristiano Ronaldo’s paltry four goals for Real Madrid in La Liga this term to appreciate Messi’s persistence at the highest level. While the Portuguese has struggled with his side not being at their best, Messi stepped things up to fill the void left by Neymar, inspiring his team to push on.

With the little genius in their corner, it’s no wonder the Catalans remain unbeaten this campaign, scoring 12 more goals than any other team in the division.

Messi has grown into his more central, play-making role with aplomb as Andres Iniesta’s powers have waned. His latest evolution is just another feather in his hat.

SERIE A: Mauro Icardi 

FC Internazionale v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A

Games: 20

Goals: 18

Assists: 1

Key passes: 20

Chances created: 21

Shot accuracy: 72%

In his element, Mauro Icardi is one of the finest strikers in the world and he’s proved as much over the course of the current Serie A campaign.

The Argentine is a fighter, a street footballer even, and it’s that tenacity and drive with which the Inter skipper has dragged his side into the top three at this stage of the season.

His 18 goals in the league is second only to Ciro Immobile. A rather flat Inter midfield has seen the onus fall on attack with Icardi leading the line expertly, aided by wide players Ivan Perisic and Antonio Candreva.

The 24-year-old has made the most of the service afforded to him, scoring over 50% of his side’s goals this season.

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Pele spokesperson denies hospital reports as Brazilian legend rests at home

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Pele‘s spokesperson dismissed reports the footballing legend had been hospitalised on Friday, saying the 77-year-old was resting at home.

The Brazilian cancelled a trip to London this weekend for a dinner in his honour with the English football Writers’ Association (FWA), with the FWA saying he had collapsed from exhaustion and been taken to hospital.

But his spokesperson branded those reports as “fake news”.

Pele made his first public appearance since December’s World Cup draw with a zimmer frame in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.

“He said he’s not going because it’s going to be very tiring, very stressful,” said Pepito Fornos.

“He had this trip to England, but the trip to Rio was very tiring and so to face another trip, with transits at several airports, wasn’t possible.”

Pele – the only player to win three World Cups – has struggled with ill health and was unable to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Games.

Pele “has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion”, said the FWA earlier on Friday.

“He is on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery. Thankfully there is no suggestion of anything more serious.”

Pele helped inspire Brazil to World Cup victories in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

He scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances during his 21-year career, including a Brazilian record 77 goals in 92 international appearances.

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