Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that he turned down the opportunity to sign Pep Guardiola in 2001 because he felt the Spanish midfielder was past his prime. Guardiola, who made 263 appearances for Barcelona FC between 1990 and 2001, is currently the manager of Manchester City FC.
Wenger's Arsenal and Guardiola's City will clash in Sunday's Carabao Cup final at London's Wembley Stadium. It will be the first of two back-to-back games between the English clubs this year. They will square off again next Thursday at the Emirates Stadium in a Premiere League encounter.
According to Wenger, Guardiola visited his house looking to move to Arsenal after he left Nou Camp in 2001. However, the defensive midfielder was into his 30's and Wenger refused to sign Guardiola. At the time, Arsenal were one of the elite teams in England, having won the 1997-98 Premier League crown, before their golden run in 2001-02. Wenger's team also won back-to-back FA Cup titles between 2001 and 2003.
"He (Guardiola) was over the top of his career already, and I had top-class players in these positions. Yes. It was the quality of his decision making, the quality of his distribution, and he played a very quick passing game, which is always our DNA," Wenger said, while revealing the reason to not sign Guardiola, who was one of the best defensive midfielders during his prime years in Barcelona, via ESPN FC.
Arsene Wenger doesn’t believe Pep Guardiola raised the bar
And while Wenger believes Guardiola has evolved into a "a great manager," he does not agree with the popular notion that the Spaniard has raised the bar in modern soccer.
"No, because you look at Barcelona, they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed, because there is a regrouping of the best players in a short number of clubs. And we as managers maybe we impart our philosophy, but I think this game belongs to the players. Because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before, because you have a regrouping of the best players in a very small number of (teams)," added Wenger, who has served as Arsenal manger since 1996.
Pep Guardiola, widely regarded as the best manager of his generation, won three straight league titles and two Champions League crowns at Barcelona, before leading Bayern Munich to three consecutive Bundesliga championships. Now, the Spaniard is on course to win his his first English Premier League title in just his second season at Etihad Stadium. Manchester City are also one of the Champions League favourites.