Pep Guardiola says he initially wanted to sign Marc-Andre ter Stegen for Manchester City, but has denied reports Lionel Messi and other Barcelona superstars were transfer targets.
Claudio Bravo will be in goal for City at Camp Nou on Tuesday as Group C’s heavyweights meet in the first game of a double-header, with Ter Stegen at the other end, having becoming the undisputed number one following the Chilean’s departure.
Spanish media reports ahead of the blockbuster fixture claimed Guardiola attempted to coax some of Barca’s leading lights to Manchester, including Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta.
However, the City manager dismissed the suggestion out of hand, insisting Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu would not have sanctioned any of the stellar quartet’s departure.
“I didn’t call any player,” he said. “You would be fighting a losing battle. This summer I never called Messi, Busquets, Suarez or Iniesta.
“As for Marc-Andre Ter Stegen [Barca’s keeper], I knew that he wanted to play all the time.
“I got in touch, because we needed a keeper like Ter Stegen or Claudio Bravo. We got Claudio and Ter Stegen stayed.”
City have regularly been suggested as a potential destination for Messi, should he bring his record-shattering stint in Catalonia to an end, but Guardiola hopes the Argentina star sees out his career at Camp Nou.
“I never called Messi and I wish him to play here and finish his career here,” said Guardiola.
“But maybe he wants to go somewhere else. Maybe he wants his kids to speak English.
“If it happens, there would be a list of six, seven or eight clubs who would want to sign him.
“But it will be down to Messi where he wants to go.”
Messi scored twice when he last faced a Guardiola team at Camp Nou, a 3-0 semi-final first-leg win over Bayern Munich in the 2014-15 Champions League.
“I don’t know what instructions I can give the players to control his talent,” said Guardiola.
“Ninety minutes is a long time. They will have a moment and they are so precise.
“They don’t need many chances to score. That’s the big talent of the strikers of Barcelona.
“It’s a good test for us to know how our level is against, for me, the best team.
“I need to know my team as quickly as possible and this is a good chance to find out.”
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