The Catalan was the main event at the heralded Cityzens Weekend last July, despite making it clear that he was unhappy with the whole idea
It began, Manchester City decided, on this day one year ago. The club threw open the doors of their City Football Academy to thousands of supporters for a weekend of live music and family fun, topped off by the long awaited unveiling of the new coach, Pep Guardiola.
The event was regarded as a huge success both inside the club and by the fans that attended. City’s Sales and Marketing department even won a Stadium Business award for it. There was just one problem: Guardiola himself didn’t want to be part of it, and it still irks him that he was.
“It begins” was the slogan of Cityzens Weekend. There was a new kit, complete with a new badge, and of course a new coach, probably the most revered in world football.
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The British football public were already expecting Guardiola not just to sweep to success with City, but revolutionise English football, too. He knew full well the pressure he would be under and when he was told of the plans for Cityzens Weekend he was alarmed; he did not feel his own employers needed to feed into the narrative.
It began, then, in less than perfect circumstances. The pre-season trip to China did not go down well, either; a Manchester derby was scrapped, the heat made it hard to train and it was difficult to keep on top of the players’ new nutritional requirements.
Guardiola also regrets not pushing for a more radical squad overhaul 12 months ago, a decision which has ensured City will spend big and spend often this summer.
Not that Pep is unhappy at City. He feels tremendous support from Txiki Begiristain, Ferran Soriano and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, those with which he works most closely. In fact, he has a superb relationship with Al Mubarak, the City chairman who is ultimately responsible for the Catalan’s future.
For his part, Guardiola is open to the idea of extending his three-year contract, and is especially keen to see how teenagers Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Brahim Diaz and Aro Muric can contribute to the first team in the coming years.
It is thought that if Guardiola succeeds next season he is likely to sign an extension in 2018. For that to happen, a lot still needs to change.
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While the majority of Premier League clubs report for pre-season training today, Guardiola’s players will be enjoying the final week of their summer holidays.
At the Catalan’s behest, City will not be back in for work until July 10. The idea is that those who did not take part in international tournaments will be fresher and hungrier for what comes next.
The Blues fly out to the United States for three International Champions Cup matches the following week and, as it stands, Guardiola will have fewer than 15 players who feature in his plans for next season. The rest of the party will be made up of players City hope to sell, or young talents earmarked for big futures.
The City boss is also concerned about the high temperatures and travel demands as City visit Houston, Los Angeles and Nashville over the last two weeks of July, though it is expected everything will work out considerably better than it did in China.
The whole thing will be more successful if City can add a slew of new signings over the next fortnight. Sources close to City’s transfer dealings insist they are close to landing all of their priority targets, and every effort is being made to get anywhere between two and five deals over the line before the trip to the U.S.
Dani Alves is sure to be confirmed as a City player in due course, while Benjamin Mendy is still regarded as a very gettable signing, despite claims that Monaco will not sell. Tottenham are still trying to extract as much money as possible for Kyle Walker, while talks are ongoing for Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand, though breakthroughs are expected in both cases. Progress has been made on a new centre-back, too, though the feeling is that most if not all of the full-backs will be signed first.
Then there is Alexis Sanchez, who has long had his heart set on a move to the Etihad Stadium and has no desire to move anywhere else. The Chilean is now on holiday following the Confederations Cup, leaving City and Arsenal to work out the terms of a transfer.
City have believed for months that they will get their man, but have always been prepared to wait until the last moment to get the deal done. Even if Arsenal were to sanction a sale quickly so they can move on with their own business, there is no immediate rush on City’s part as they would give him July off anyway, as they have with Claudio Bravo and Bernardo Silva.
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Extra signings will be explored once City get definitive answers on those targets, but Guardiola is said to be pleased with the initial plans.
Given he is always bothered by something – in this case, the pre-season arrangements – City fans should take heart from the fact he has been in high spirits for the past six weeks.
If his employers can finalise negotiations for his priority targets, he will be very happy indeed. Just don’t call it a new beginning.