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Erling Haaland contract update, Real Madrid interest, Matheus Nunes analysis – Embargoed section: Pep Guardiola’s pre-Brentford press conference part two



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Manchester City travel to Brentford in a rare Monday night fixture for the Premier League champions, hoping to capitalise on a clash between their rivals this weekend.

Liverpool and Arsenal go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon meaning one or even both of City’s primary Premier League title challengers is guaranteed to drop points and open the door for ground to be made by Pep Guardiola and his players.

Manchester City come into the clash off the back of yet another win in the Premier League as the reigning champions put together a strong winning run of form across all competitions in 2024.

Burnley became the latest side to succumb to a stellar Manchester City performance at the Etihad Stadium, with Julian Alvarez’s first-half brace putting the game beyond any doubt heading into the second period of time.

Rodri’s goal just 26 seconds into the second-half rubbed salt into the wounds, and despite a late goal from Ameen Al-Dakhil, Manchester City claimed all three points and retained their place in the top-three of the Premier League table.

Brentford become Manchester City’s next opponents in a challenging Monday night clash in the south of the country – an opposition that managed to do the double of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering outfit last season.

Ahead of the meeting between Brentford and Manchester City at the Gtech Community Stadium, Pep Guardiola has addressed the media in part two of his pre-match press conference at the City Football Academy!

On whether talks have started with Erling Haaland and his representatives over a new contract

“I don’t know. (No knowledge of that?) No.”

On whether interest from Real Madrid would accelerate talks over a new deal with Erling Haaland

“I don’t know. I’m not involved in that. Always the player decides, the club decides, he wants to stay or he wants to leave. I don’t have info. He arrived last season, the impact was incredible, the beginning of this season, the numbers were really good too, he had two months injured.

“What will happen in the future? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know. We are happy to have him, hopefully he’s happy too to be with us, that is what we know, and the rest, I don’t know. We cannot control what the people say, so it’s normal.”

On whether he would encourage the club to get him down to a new contract given his role/impact on the team

“What do you think? That we don’t want Erling (Haaland) to stay here for one decade?! Honestly… So, we want him! Yes, or yes, for a long, long time at this club, for a long time. We are in love with him, we want him. But, I don’t know!

“From one report, from one journalist, or one Twitter account, or one Instagram account, do you think we’re going to change something about what’s going to happen? So today one guy on Twitter makes a comment, ‘Oh that is a big news in the worldwide because it’s going to happen’. It’s not going to happen.

“It’s going to happen when Erling decides to extend the contract or not, or the club decides to extend the contract or not, when you have potential offers for him or not. If someone wants Erling, it’s easy! Phone, call Man City, and ask. It’s what we do when we want to sign someone. It’s not more complicated than that. The rest, OK it’s yeah… If you have to comment on every news when it’s coming from external, you’d never finish the press conference.”

On whether Erling Haaland could replicate the situations of Sergio Aguero and David Silva in constantly being linked with moves away but staying for a long time

“First it’s an honour; it’s an honour for us that important clubs want our players. But at the end, the players decide, and of course, our best players – what I know from my chairman, sporting director, CEO, and other people – we want to keep the best players. That is normal.

“We want to stay being there (at the top). And to be there, we need good players, not because I’m sitting here as a manager and having success in the past means we are going to win games without good players. I need good players! That is the secret in our success.

“There are many, many reasons, but the main reason is having exceptional players, this is the main reason. And the main reason we want to have him (Erling Haaland). But, in world football, we never know!

“But it’s simple; if someone wants our players, call our sporting director and say we want this player and we want to make this offer, convince the player, and after do the rest. It’s easy. But I’m not here to comment on every single player if they have a potential (to leave). But we didn’t get (any offers), from my info, maybe the club gets an info and I don’t know it.”

On whether you have to ignore connections/transfer rumours linking players with moves away

“Of course I ignore it. I know the reality in this world, it doesn’t bother me at all. As much as the players are focussed on what we have to do, the rest is not important. It’s normal that Real Madrid wants the best players, and Barcelona wants the best players, or in Italy, or PSG wants the best players – it’s normal.

“Always we want the best players, and (Manchester) United wants the best players, and Liverpool, and Arsenal, and everyone, so it’s normal! It’s not a surprise, but being linked to that is an honour. If they really want them, it’s an honour for us. It means that we did a good job and especially Erling (Haaland) in that case made an incredible job. But is it true? I don’t know. It’s just to make a little bit of noise, and it’s fine.”

On whether we are seeing Matheus Nunes’ influence growing on the team

“Yeah, absolutely. First, the most important thing, the impact of one player when they arrive, how settled with the team or being loved with one guy like Matheus (Nunes). Everybody is delighted to have him in the locker room and the minutes he’s played was really good from day one and he has a specific quality that we don’t have, and didn’t have.

“In the transition play, he is one of the best I’ve ever seen. But of course, our way that we play and the dynamics sometimes it needs a little bit longer but at specific things, he’s fantastic. We are really pleased in the performance he had (against Burnley). The first goal was fantastic and the moments he can get with the pace after with Erling (Haaland) or Julian (Alvarez) or Phil (Foden) or Jeremy (Doku) or Jack (Grealish) or Oscar (Bobb).

“It’s quite similar when he makes these movements like Kevin (De Bruyne); we have two players that can run. They are so, so difficult. But still he’s young and we are delighted.”

On whether he feels he has more options now in midfield with Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes

“Yeah but different. They’re different. So (Mateo) Kovacic likes to see the game as a holding midfielder, he’s not a player in the box like (Ilkay) Gundo(gan). Gundo was unique in that terms; he can play in the build-up and after have the tempo, and that tempo is difficult to find it. We don’t have that player like… Matheus (Nunes) has another quality, but he’s a guy that always he can arrive to the box, but the intelligence from Gundo is difficult to find.”

On whether there is a feeling John Stones has been frustrated and now wants to contribute towards the end of the season like last year

“He had in periods, in previous seasons, previous years, a lot of setbacks like today, like this year. Last season was amazing. The most important thing, and I’m not concerned, is how incredibly professional he is, how beloved is his lifestyle in terms of food, and rest, and preparation, and taking care, before the game and recovery games. He’s incredibly professional.

“That’s why when a player does this, I’m not concerned at all. Football, sometimes it happens. Sometimes you do these kind of things and you get injured, but hopefully it’s the last one and he can finish helping us, because now there are a lot of games coming and everyone it’s important and the guys who come from the bench will be important. That’s why we are really pleased that everybody is back.”

On whether John Stones’ professionalism has improved over the last seven/eight years

“Yeah, of course. He arrived here from Everton and playing one game a week, he was so young, and the process to realise, ‘Oh (playing) every three days’ and demanding that you have to win, win, win, win every single day, you need a process to adapt to that.

“When you come from the Academy from maybe (Manchester) City, or my experience in Barcelona, when you are there you have to win when you’re 12, 13, 14, 15 years-old, you have to win every single game. You collate this mentality from early ages.

“Maybe John (Stones) didn’t have that and now being in a top club, maybe needed a little bit of time, and he got it, otherwise he could not stay a long time at a club like that. The club extended his contract once or twice, I don’t remember clearly. And he’s a national team player.

“So when that happens is he handles playing every three days and every three days being ready knowing that you cannot lose. Of course he’s allowed, you have to understand me, you’re allowed to lose because of course you can lose but the mentality that we have to win and he wanted it. Now he knows exactly. Most of the players knows it.”

On whether Manchester City are part of the dangerous section of the season and the smell of trophies takes care of itself

“Still it’s far away, we are in early February. But we are now reducing games I would say. But I noticed since we were in Japan in pre-season and the early games, I think we didn’t lose it. Of course, playing without Erling (Haaland) for two months, or without Kevin (De Bruyne) for five months, but that’s why we have a squad.

“We didn’t cry, Julian (Alvarez) made a step forward, Phil (Foden) made an incredible step forward, incredible, playing that central position, Phil has been unbelievable. And all the players doing that! Hopefully we can arrive, especially in March, April being in all competitions – this is our dream now! Arriving in March, April being there, close to all the competitions to try to fight for them.”

On what he has seen in Phil Foden that has changed

“Application has always been there, I think he understands the game a little bit more. And when he plays in central positions, he’s an incredible weapon. He has a sense of goal, a sense of assist, a sense of work ethic. At this age, I don’t know how many games he has already played for Man City, at his age, how many titles he’s won already… 15, 16 titles won since he arrived!

“I would say that every time he is a more mature player, for example the action (to give away a penalty) against Crystal Palace, he learned, and that is the process. When you’re 27, 28-years-old, you will not do it, and you have to live those situations, live it quick and learn quick. Even defensively there are many things he is learning. And he’s a guy, like you know, playing in five positions.

“He’s a player that when playing in central positions, the sense of goal is there, but playing away in the winger positions, especially the right, always has the sense of goal as well. And having a player alongside Julian (Alvarez), and Erling (Haaland) of course, having the sense of he will create something – this is really important.

“In the tight games, when the distances between the lines are so, so close, having Phil (Foden) who can move really good in small spaces is really, really important.”

On whether he has become more careful after the Crystal Palace game

“No, because it’s not about Phil (Foden) in the 18-yard box. In the 18-yard box, you have to be careful, not him. He lost the ball, yeah, and he wanted to solve it; because of the energy, he’s young. But it happens, it’s not a problem. It’s football, the human beings, we make mistakes. The problem is trying to understand, don’t do it again. And maybe he’ll do it again, but he will realise maybe in a flashback, ‘Oh what happened cannot happen!’ And it can happen.

“It’s football, human beings. The question is learn. The question in life, in football especially, you can do it but try to not do it again. Since then, he played the two games at the World Cup, since then he arrived here against Everton and was unbelievable and the games he played, his impact has been more decisive than ever, winning games.

“Phil always plays good, since a young kid at 16, 17-years-old, when we realised he has a special talent. But the fact that now he’s the guy who has the ball and a lot of goals he’s scored and assists. Rodri made a good goal last season, but he waited with the team, and in another situation could make a one-against-one and finish the action. He waited, and waited, and waited, and Rodri, and score. He’s learning how to play with the tempos.

“Before it was everything with energy. Sometimes you have to play with one-touch, sometimes you don’t have to make a dribble through three or four, before it was all the time… Sometimes it’s calm, play with the ball, make an extra pass, and you will feel it. The situation will come along when you have to decide to be decisive, and he has been this season really good so far. Really good.”