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Pep Guardiola reveals the day he SNUBBED Wigan and Man City for Barcelona
- Updated: February 19, 2018
PEP GUARDIOLA will finally get to know what Wigan is like tonight, 12 year after he turned them down as a player because he didn’t think he was good enough.
Former Latics boss Paul Jewell approached Guardiola as his playing career at Barcelona wound down, hoping to get the last drop out of such a gifted midfielder.
“They tried to sign me, but I was not good enough. That is the truth,” he said. “They were interested in me, and so were Manchester City when Stuart Peace was manager.
“But I was old, really old, as a football player to come here to England and it didn’t happen. They were so clever [by not signing him] because I was not good enough.”
Jewell recalls that when he spoke to Guardiola he was hugely impressed by his knowledge of Wigan’s players and formation.
“I got a call from Guardiola’s agent and he gave me Pep’s number so I rang him and left a message,” Jewell said. “Quite remarkably, five minutes later he rang me back. He knew all about Wigan, all about our players – I was really impressed.
“We had a terrific conversation and he told me he would like to come and play in the Premier League. His wages weren’t extortionate and he was all set to come when his agent called me a couple of days later saying Pep had received a mind-blowing offer from Qatar. So it was Qatar or Wigan.”
Even though their exchange was brief, Jewell heard things that made him think Guardiola, a Champions League winner as player and later as a manager of Barcelona, was destined for great things.
He added: “The impressive thing was he knew all about Wigan, even what formation we played. It showed great football knowledge throughout Europe. I like the way he conducts himself now. He is very low key.”
That could prove appropriate tonight as current Wigan manager Paul Cook has warned he would rather share a post-match can of lager than a bottle of expensive wine.
The Latics do have form for upsetting Manchester City, having won their last two FA Cup meetings – including, memorably, the 2013 final at Wembley and a sixth-round tie at the Etihad the following season.
A hat-trick of upsets may be too much to ask, despite the fact Wigan have knocked out two Premier League sides, in Bournemouth and West Ham, to get this far.
Yet whatever the result, Cook will not be spending £450 on a post-match bottle of wine, as Bristol City manager Lee Johnson did for Jose Mourinho before masterminding a shock Carabao Cup victory over Manchester United in December.
The Wigan manager’s style is much more down to earth, having bought in a bottle of wine from his local supermarket for Hammers manager David Moyes last month.
“Will I share a drink with Pep? Yes, a can of Skol!” he said. “We respect Pep, but our drinks cabinet won’t change for anybody – I think we got David Moyes a £12 bottle of wine from Tesco.
“We’ll show Pep the utmost respect and I’m sure by the time he leaves he’ll have a good experience of Wigan, but we are not here to make best friends with Manchester City and have everyone pat us on the back after they’ve beaten us by five and say, ‘Have a good season’. We want to try to win a game of football.”
Cook’s side have led League One for most of the season, but have fallen off the top following successive defeats by Southend and Blackpool.
Their chances of a shock win tonight have been further hit by the suspension of captain and midfielder Sam Morsy, who picked up his 10th yellow card of the season against Blackpool last Tuesday.
But they do have the threat of former Manchester United forward Nick Powell and Northern Ireland striker Will Grigg, who have 27 goals between them this season.
And they have a manager determined to play the right way after growing up on the Anfield terraces watching Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish shine in the dominant Liverpool side of the 1980s.
“My boyhood idol was Kenny Dalglish and that Liverpool team,” he said. “Growing up as a Liverpool fan, I like to see football played that way.”