Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were offered to Manchester City by their agent in January, manager Pep Guardiola has claimed.
The astonishing revelation comes on the eve of an eagerly-anticipated Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium that will see City win the Premier League title if they beat rivals United.
Pogba’s future at United has been the subject of some speculation in recent months after an apparent rift with manager Jose Mourinho. Mkhitaryan, meanwhile, left United in January as part of the deal that took Alexis Sanchez to Old Trafford.
The affairs of both players are managed by Mino Raiola and Guardiola made the claim after being asked about the agent, with whom he has had past differences, at his pre-match press conference.
In March Raiola hit out at Guardiola over his treatment of Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the pair were at Barcelona.
“Pep Guardiola, the coach, is fantastic,” Raiola was quoted as saying. “As a person he’s an absolute zero. He’s a coward, a dog.”
Guardiola had been asked a question about his rivalry with Mourinho when he turned attention to agents.
He said: “I have many (rivals), especially agents. I have a lot. I am a big boss.”
Asked if one of them was Raiola, Guardiola initially refused to answer, but then said: “Finally, the people discover my secrets, I am a bad guy. I’m a coward. I don’t understand why I am a so bad guy.
“I never speak with him so his influence on my opinion… I don’t know, maybe Ibra explained many things about me. But (this) guy two months ago he offered me Mkhitaryan and Pogba to play with us.”
Guardiola claimed the costs of a deal for France midfielder Pogba would have been prohibitive but, in any case, he is surprised Raiola would want his players to work with someone he appears to have such a low opinion of.
He said: “Pogba is an exceptional player. A top, top player. We don’t have the money enough to buy Pogba because he is so expensive.
“But I’m surprised, because I am a dog, he wants his players to come to here. So, no. No way.”
He jokingly added: “And comparing (with) a dog is bad. It’s not good. He has to respect the dogs!”
Asked if he would ever be interested in signing one of Raiola’s players again, Guardiola said: “I am not a good guy. He deserves his players to play with better guys. But, he knows as well, (as) he said, I am a top manager. Thank you!”
Raiola agrees he is an admirer of Guardiola but the pair do not speak.
“I never spoke to Pep Guardiola,” Raiola said, when asked about the matter by the BBC. “I would not speak to him about players, I would speak to Manchester City. They are a fantastic club with a fantastic manager.”
The claims appeared to come as a surprise to Pogba, who tweeted, “Say what?”
Sources at United have firmly indicated the club had no intention of selling Pogba in January and would not have considered a deal with City.
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