8 players who fell out with Pep Guardiola: Cancelo, Eto’o, Zlatan…
There’s no doubt that Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers of all time, but the Catalan coach hasn’t gotten to where he is today without falling out with some players along the way.
Guardiola is one of the most demanding managers around and his extensively detailed approach doesn’t always rub players the right way.
And that continues to be the case at Manchester City today. We’ve taken a look at eight players that Guardiola has famously fallen out with.
Guardiola sent out a stern message that absolutely nobody is indispensable by allowing Joao Cancelo to leave out on loan to Bayern Munich in January.
It looked like a risky manoeuvre at the time, given it’s the one area of his squad not stacked with world-class options. Especially as last season Cancelo looked like one of the best full-backs in the world, one of City’s most dangerous and creative players, and among the first names on the teamsheet as they claimed back-to-back Premier League titles.
It was a big call, given City’s form was faltering and Arsenal had a lead at the top of the table. But Guardiola’s been vindicated; his team’s form has been exceptional since adapting to a new three-man defence, with John Stones thriving as a Beckenbauer-esque sweeper. They knocked Cancelo’s Bayern out of the Champions League and are on track to win a historic treble. Cancelo, who?
Both Cancelo and Guardiola have remained tight-lipped about what exactly happened but it’s clear there was some kind of breakdown in their relationship. Don’t expect to see the Portugal international in a City shirt again.
“You bought a Ferrari, but you drive it like a Fiat.”
Those were the famous words of Ibrahimovic after working with Guardiola back in 2009.
Barcelona splashed out £59million to land Ibrahimovic back in 2009 and it didn’t take long before the pair were butting heads. The striker only lasted one season in Spain before heading back to Italy.
“As a coach, he was fantastic,” Ibrahimovic explained. “As a person, I’ve no comments about that, that’s something else. He’s not a man, there’s nothing more to say.”
“My experience with Pep at Barcelona was what it was, but on a personal level it wasn’t what we hoped for. Many players have said the same about him.”
Eto’o was a fellow big-name forward that Guardiola struggled to maintain a personal relationship with. Eto’o ultimately got the last laugh as his Inter side would then thwart Barcelona’s defence of the Champions League in 2020, beating them in the semi-finals.
The striker even once said: “I can’t compare Mourinho to Guardiola, one of them couldn’t win the Champions League with Bayern Munich and the other one did it with Porto.”
Hleb’s spell at Barcelona was massively disappointing as he only managed to feature in 19 league matches before being shipped off on several loan moves.
While Hleb and Guardiola didn’t see eye to eye at the time, Hleb’s thoughts on the manager have softened over time as he has admitted his mistakes.
He told a Russian sports programme: “I didn’t regret my move to Barcelona. However, after I left Barca, I actually started to feel it. But honestly, I’m the one to blame. There were changes in my personal life, I was nervous, I didn’t listen to anyone.
“When Guardiola told me to learn Spanish, I took his words aggressively and kept my collision course. Surely, what coach would put up with all this stuff?
“In the long run, everything was going wrong. We won the Champions League in 2009 but I was upset even then: I played all the games before the final and was left out of the squad for the crucial game. I didn’t expect that to happen. I wanted to punch him after the game.
“Now I’m calm, I understand him well. If I were Pep, I would do just the same.”
Alexander Hleb on his regrets leaving Arsenal for Barcelona pic.twitter.com/FzxmlYQNzg
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 22, 2019
Toure attacked Guardiola in an interview with France Football where he claimed: “When you realise that he has problems with Africans, wherever he goes, I ask myself questions.”
Since making those comments, Toure himself has been more apologetic towards the Spanish manager and that he regretted his original comments.
Toure later told The Athletic: “When something happens that is wrong and you make a mistake, or people use your name and use you to do some wrong stuff, you have to make it OK.
“This one was wrong. I want to apologise for what happened, I want to apologise for doing something wrong.”
Guardiola worked with Toure at both Barcelona and Manchester City and yet he never really got the best out of the Ivory Coast midfielder.
Guardiola spent one season working with Fabregas at Barcelona and some interesting truths have come out since the pair left the club.
Fabregas admitted in 2020 via Marca: “No (relationship now), no, with Pep nothing at all. I don’t know if the disappointment with Pep is mutual. Things happened, but I prefer not to talk about it.
“Pep was my idol since I was a child. It is him I have learned the most (from), perhaps, since I was four until now.”
This awkward encounter between them makes all the more sense now.
— Syed Emmad Uddin (@EmmadCFC26) December 4, 2016
It’s worth remembering that Hart was one of the best shot-stoppers in Europe at one point. The two-time Premier League-winning goalkeeper was a popular player at the Etihad.
Hart revealed a conversation he had with Guardiola when he first arrived in Manchester. The goalkeeper told The Stiffs podcast: “It was a two-hour conversation that kind of ended with him saying, ‘I can’t see this working’.
“I thought that might be the idea. ‘I don’t agree with you,’ he said. ‘I’ll be the first person to be proved wrong but what I see in you isn’t what I want from my goalkeeper.’
“I was like, ‘It’s all very well saying that, but I’ve never been asked to do the kind of things I know you like goalkeepers to do, so I think it’s only fair I be given the opportunity.”
Claudio Bravo swiftly took Hart’s place in the Man City side and Hart was never able to get back to the same level of consistency.
Guardiola delivered three consecutive league titles while he was at Bayern Munich although not everyone was a fan of his methods.
Former Bayern defender Dante told Sport: “He doesn’t speak with you. As a player you don’t know what situation you’re in. There are coaches that from a tactical point of view are world class but on a human level they’re not so good. That is the case with Guardiola”