Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola maintains he has no desire to stage a Premier League reunion with Lionel Messi.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner first established himself as the shining light of world football under Guardiola’s guidance at Barcelona between 2008 and 2012, while the presence of former Camp Nou figures Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano on the board at the Etihad Stadium has contributed to City regularly being linked with Messi’s signature.
The latest round of speculation surrounding the 29-year-old’s future this week centred on a potential audacious swoop from Manchester United, but, speaking ahead of City’s Premier League trip to Burnley, Guardiola echoed the thoughts of his counterpart Jose Mourinho by stating it would be fitting for Messi to conclude his stellar career in Catalonia.
“I told you more than once, Messi will stay at Barcelona,” he said.
“He will finish his career in Barcelona. That is my wish.”
City and Barcelona both secured progress from Champions League Group C on Wednesday, with Messi scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Celtic at Parkhead as Guardiola’s men closed out a 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach to seal the runners-up berth.
Last season, Manuel Pellegrini steered City to a semi-final loss against eventual winners Real Madrid in a competition where they had largely flattered to deceive up until that point.
Guardiola had to negotiate a qualifying round against Steaua Bucharest this time around before going down to a 4-0 defeat at Camp Nou.
City’s reaction, in beating Barcelona 3-1 in the return match, pleased their manager but he feels there is plenty of improvement to come as they prepare to take on Burnley in the Premier League.
“We are where we want to be, in the next round of the Champions League,” Guardiola said. “After the draw and our lost game in Barcelona it was a tough moment to qualify. We did it one game before and that is why we are so, so happy.
“The people believe it is easy but you cannot imagine how today the Champions League is tougher than before.
“Years ago, in my first years at Barcelona, qualifying for the next round looked a little bit easier than now. In the future it is going to happen that the big, big teams are not going to qualify.
“That is why it is a big success, especially for a club like this, fourth time in a row qualified for the knockout rounds. I’m so proud – not all the important clubs in Europe can do that.
“Manuel Pellegrini helped us to achieve that three times in a row, so the club has to be good. But at the start of the season when we won a lot of games I said many times we have to improve and in this moment we have to improve too.
“We have a lot of games in our heads, in our legs; sometimes you are up and down. In all the game we compete quite well and of course we have many, many things to improve.
“I am always optimistic, now more than ever, about my team and what we can do in the season. We know exactly, we spoke about that. We can improve and we will do that to achieve our targets.”