Pep Guardiola apologises to Kalvin Phillips: I’m so sorry I called you overweight

Head Coach Pep Guardiola gives instruction to Kalvin Phillips of Manchester City during the FA Cup semi-final between Manchester City and Sheffield United at Wembley Stadium on April 22, 2023 in London, England.

Pep Guardiola has apologised to Kalvin Phillips for calling the England midfielder “overweight” and says he regrets making the remarks.

The Manchester City manager had claimed Phillips returned “overweight” from the Qatar World Cup 14 months ago and would not play or train until he got himself back in shape.

It opened the door for Phillips to become the subject of regular taunts from fans about his waistline and he admitted in an interview this month that his confidence had suffered as a consequence.

Now Guardiola has apologised to Phillips, who joined West Ham on loan from City last month in the hope of kickstarting his career only to suffer a nightmare start at his new club.

Asked if he regretted the comments, the City manager said: “Yeah, I’m sorry. Once in eight years is not bad. But I’m so sorry. I apologise to him. I do apologise. I’m so sorry.”

Guardiola revealed he had discussed the matter with Phillips before going public. “I spoke about that,” he said. “Yeah before our game. I spoke to him. Before I say something here [in the media] I speak with the players [first] in that case.”

Phillips said Guardiola’s comments had impacted on him and his family. “After the World Cup was probably the toughest, when Pep came out and said I was overweight,” he said.

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (L) gices instructions to substitute Manchester City's English midfielder Kalvin Phillips during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester City and Sheffield United at Wembley Stadium in north west London on April 22, 2023.
Phillips was far from a Man City regular under Guardiola - AFP/Adrian Dennis

“He was right to do so, but there are different ways to go about it. I did not disagree with him, but obviously I took a big knock on my confidence and how I felt at City. And my family were not happy about it, either. Especially my mum.

“I was probably 1.5kg over my target [weight]. I think Pep was frustrated that I did not come back to training early, but it was just a miscommunication between the people that worked at City and myself.

“I never got that information because if he had asked me to be there, I would have been there.”

Phillips made just two Premier League starts for City in 18 months following his £45 million move from Leeds.

But he has endured a rocky start at West Ham so far, with a mistake on his debut against Bournemouth and another error in a 3-0 defeat at Manchester United both leading to goals. Then on Saturday Phillips was sent off in West Ham’s 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest after being booked twice in less than three minutes.

Phillips admitted things had not gone as expected but hopes his luck will soon turn. “I wanted this to be a fresh start, to really get my head down and go for it. It’s not gone as I would have hoped,” he said.

“Everyone can see that, but I know football. I’m experienced enough to know that if I get my head down and grit my teeth and do the basics right that things will turn.

“It’s easy to say, but now I’ve got to do it. They say bad luck comes in threes, so let’s hope I’ve had my three pieces of it and I can kick on now.”