Pep Guardiola says he is disappointed that Phil Foden, John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan are not part of Manchester City’s pre-season tour of the United States, admitting their absence is contributing to “incredible problems” for his side.
City are currently in Houston preparing to face Club America on Thursday before traveling to Green Bay for a game with Bayern Munich on Sunday.
But England internationals Foden and Stones, along with Germany international Gundogan, will miss friendlies after failing to meet US entry requirements. Most travelers to the United States must be fully vaccinated, which also prevented N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek from taking part in Chelsea’s pre-season trip to the country.
The trio are training with City’s U23s in Croatia and will join the senior squad when they return from America, but Guardiola said his side’s failure to enjoy a full pre-season together could cost them dearly when competitive matches begin next month.
When asked if he was disappointed to be without Foden, Stones and Gundogan, the manager replied: “Yes, very much. I wish they were here.
“The second season here [2017/18], when we finished with 100 points, it was the only pre-season where we were all together from day one. Since then, four players have always arrived, then after a few weeks others and we start the season with incredible problems. That’s why we lose many, many points at the start every season.
Man City schedule
- Liverpool (N), Community Shield, Saturday July 30, kick-off 5 p.m.
- West Ham (A), Premier League, Sunday August 7, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
- Bournemouth (H), Premier League, Saturday August 13, kick-off at 3 p.m.
- Newcastle (A), Premier League, Sunday August 21, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
- Barcelona (A), friendly, Wednesday August 24, kick-off 8.30 p.m.
- Crystal Palace (H), Premier League, Saturday August 27, kick-off at 3 p.m.
- Nottingham Forest (H), Premier League, Wednesday August 31, kick-off at 7:30 p.m.
“This season I thought, ‘maybe we will all be together’, but due to personal situations with these three players, and other situations with others, we cannot be together. We are delayed but that’s what it is. We are moving forward and today we have to adapt.
“Before, each pre-season was three, four, five weeks together. Now it’s over, with the World Cup, the European Cup [European Championships] – many competitions.
“The players need a rest after a difficult season. But they are fit, they are training with the U23s in Croatia, and when they come back everything will be fine.”
“Neymar’s reports are wrong – I feel sorry for him!”
Another player who won’t be part of City’s pre-season – or even their entire campaign – is Neymar, despite an article in a French newspaper The Parisian that the striker had been offered to the English champions this summer.
But Guardiola dismissed the allegations saying: “I’m really sorry for The Parisian But this is not true. I feel sorry for them because the information leaked to them was wrong.
“Neymar is an incredible player and, with the information I have, an incredibly nice guy. So let him calm, let him express the enormous talent he has in Paris alongside [Lionel] Messi and all the big stars they have.
“But I would say that Manchester City buy 150 players every season. It looks like we’re interested in every player in the world. You know that’s not true. I feel sorry for Neymar, of course!”
City target Cucurella to replace Zinchenko
However, City are keen to sign a new left-back and remain interested in Brighton’s Marc Cucurella as Sky Sports News revealed in June.
Brighton are unwilling to let Cucurella go and will demand a huge offer in order to sell given the Spain international still has four years left on his contract.
But with Oleksander Zinchenko set to move to Arsenal, City need to strengthen at left-back, and Guardiola trusts the club’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, to find the right solution.
“We’ll see,” Guardiola said when asked to sign a new left-back. “I think Txiki and his scouting department have names in every position. Txiki will know exactly what is best for the team.”
Guardiola hailed Zinchenko’s impact at Manchester City and said the Ukraine international’s success at Arsenal would be shared by his former club.
Ahead of Zinchenko’s move to the Emirates, the City boss said: “Like Gabriel [Jesus] and Rahim [Sterling]the impact of these three players over the years I’ve been here has been enormous.
“So we will miss them. They are exceptional players but, for different circumstances, they are moving on.
“Chelsea and Arsenal are two incredible clubs and the success and happiness they have there will be ours.
“For me and I think of the name of the club, our gratitude for their efforts and the way they behave on and off the pitch.
“It was good yesterday with Oleks because we could say ‘goodbye’ properly. Unfortunately with Raheem and Gabriel we couldn’t because it was summer, but yesterday at dinner together we had could say ‘goodbye’ to him.”
Walker: Haaland has big boots to fill
Erling Haaland, the £51million signing from Borussia Dortmund, is part of City’s tour of the United States and could make his debut against Club America.
Kyle Walker says he was impressed with what he saw of the forward, who scored 85 goals in 88 games for Dortmund, but warned the 21-year-old he had big boots to fill under Sergio Aguero’s form, City’s record. goalscorer who left the Etihad a year ago.
“Erling was really good,” Walker said. “He’s young – we have to take that into consideration.
“Obviously he has big responsibilities and probably big boots to fill, with Aguero being the latest – bar [Gabriel] Jesus – unconditional Manchester City striker.
“But from what I’ve seen in training, he looks strong, he looks powerful and he looks eager, and that’s the main thing. As long as he sticks to his standards, continues to do what he did at Dortmund and brings the same mentality and adapts to the Premier League.
“We all know it’s very difficult. Nobody really comes into a team and hits the ground running, so he’s going to need time, but it’s up to us as players, managers and the club in all of us to make sure that we’re making him feel as welcome as possible.”