(Reuters) – Pep Guardiola poured cold water on the idea that Manchester City should sign Barcelona striker Lionel Messi on Friday and said he would prefer the Argentinian to end his career at the Spanish club.
Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City, and Lionel Messi of Barcelona
Action pictures via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
Messi has been linked to a move from Camp Nou to the end of the season after he caused a stir when he criticized the club's sports director, Eric Abidal, who was responsible for Ernesto Valverde's dismissal last month.
British and Spanish media reported that Messi has a clause in his contract that allows him to go free during the closed season, even though his contract runs until 2021, sparking speculation about his exit from the club after 16 seasons.
"He is a Barcelona player, he will stay there, that is my wish," said Guardiola, who led Messi from 2008 to 2012, told reporters before Sunday's Premier League game against West Ham United.
"I'm not going to talk about players for another club. I think he will end his career there, that's my wish."
Guardiola also said city striker Raheem Sterling is out of the question for a leg injury for the first leg of the Champions League final round of 16 at Real Madrid later this month.
Sterling had to miss the game on Sunday due to the injury, but Guardiola now fears he could be out longer and miss the trip to the Spanish capital for the game on February 26.
"It's a problem," said Guardiola. "I don't know if he will be fit for the Madrid game."
City winger Leroy Sane is still on the mend when he makes his comeback after a serious knee injury that had to be operated on last year. Guardiola said, however, that it would take "weeks" for him to be operational again.
"If you suffer from such an injury for six months, you can't train and be there for a week," Guardiola added. “You need the rhythm to be in the right mood. Knee injuries always take time. "
Guardiola, 22 points behind Liverpool, admitted that he hadn't expected his team to lag so far behind the leaders.
"We cannot deny that the gap is large," he said. "We didn't expect to be 22 points behind, but that's the reality. We have to accept it and learn from it."
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Edited by Christian Radnedge