Pep Guardiola calls on his Manchester City players to focus on football amid talk of Alexis Sanchez transfer

Mike Whalley
The Independent
Pep Guardiola calls on his Manchester City players to focus on football amid talk of Alexis Sanchez transfer
Pep Guardiola calls on his Manchester City players to focus on football amid talk of Alexis Sanchez transfer

Pep Guardiola has told his Manchester City players to focus on maintaining their dominant form rather than worry about the potential signing of Alexis Sanchez.

City remain the favourites to sign the Arsenal forward, despite suggestions of interest from Manchester United. Sanchez, who is out of contract at the Emirates Stadium at the end of this season, has made clear that he intends to leave, and it is understood that City is his preferred destination.

The Premier League leaders had a £60m bid for the Chile international accepted in August, only for the proposed transfer to collapse as Arsenal failed in their attempt to sign Thomas Lemar from Monaco as a replacement.

City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne suggested after their midweek EFL Cup victory over Bristol City that Sanchez would “add something to the team”. Guardiola, though, wants nothing to distract his players as they prepare for Sunday’s Premier League visit to Liverpool, and continue their pursuit of four trophies.

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Asked about Sanchez, he said: “I understand completely why you ask this question; it’s your job. But you know my answer. I am focused on Liverpool. As a manager, you have a lot of things to deal with, and you have to choose which one you want to be focused on.

“I want to be focused on what we have to do on the field. Playing the game, that is my only concern. So I would not like my players to read what I’ve said, or see me on TV, and see the manager is talking about another thing, and then thinking that they are not important.

“What’s important is what happens over 90 minutes on the field. That is what I want to speak about. The players have two choices: Follow what you [the media] say, or follow me. I hope to convince them to follow what I am talking about. It’s about football, football, football on the pitch.”

Sanchez would offer an extra attacking option for Guardiola, who is hopeful that striker Gabriel Jesus is close to returning from medial knee ligament damage. The Brazil international is set to be fit for their Champions League last-16 first-leg trip to Basel on February 13, and could be playing again even sooner than that.

The striker, carried off during the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on December 31, has responded well to a visit to Barcelona this week, to be treated by Ramon Cugat, the surgeon Guardiola regularly turns to when his players are battling serious injuries.

Guardiola said: “When we play Basel in the Champions League, he could be ready. I think, in two or three weeks he’ll be ready and with us.”

Guardiola suggested that Sunday’s match at Anfield will give him a good idea of how far his team can go in the Champions League this season.

He said: “If you want to achieve something good, win titles, you have to not just win but win at these kind of stages. At Stamford Bridge we were able. Old Trafford we were able.

“We’ve still got tough teams to come. It is such an important game to see if we are able to do big things – especially in the Champions League stages.”

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