EPL

Pep Guardiola says Cole Palmer is one of the players of the season

By Sports Desk April 19, 2024

Pep Guardiola admits Chelsea’s former Manchester City starlet Cole Palmer has been one of the players of the season.

The City manager has also revealed the 21-year-old England midfielder had been trying to leave the Etihad Stadium for two years prior to his £42.5million switch to Stamford Bridge last summer.

Palmer, who was considered one of City’s brightest Academy products, has been Chelsea’s most influential performer since he moved south in search of more first-team opportunities.

Palmer has scored 25 goals this season, 11 of which have come in his last six appearances.

He heads into Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final showdown with former club City at Wembley fresh from a four-goal salvo against Everton on Monday.

Guardiola said: “Cole has been the decisive player, maybe of the season, in many aspects.

“He’s an exceptional player. We knew that when he was here.

“We know how he’s proving (himself), but he has had a lot of minutes. I said many times, I didn’t give him the minutes when maybe he deserved it. He wanted the minutes he now has at Chelsea.

“I understand completely. I’m happy for him because he’s a lovely guy, a shy guy. He has an incredible potential, otherwise he would not have been here.

“He’s playing good. He’s an incredible threat. He’s playing fantastically.”

Palmer was a member of the City squad that won the treble last season and he began the current campaign strongly with goals for Guardiola’s side in the Community Shield and European Super Cup.

Yet despite attempts to persuade the Wythenshawe-born player to stay with his hometown club, his mind to move on before the end of the summer transfer window had long been made up.

Guardiola said: “So what can I say? The decision has been made for many reasons. He was asking for two seasons to leave.

“I said, ‘No, stay’. At the end, (he said), ‘No, I want to leave’. What can we do? I said in pre-season, ‘Stay because Riyad (Mahrez) has gone’. He said, ‘No, I want to leave’.

“After two seasons, what can you say? So go there. Playing at that level is exceptional. Everybody knows it.”

City’s hopes of winning a second successive treble were dashed on Wednesday as they suffered an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Their focus is now on defending the domestic double, a feat no side has previously achieved, but Guardiola prefers not to view the targets in those terms.

Guardiola said: “We were close again (to the treble) but it didn’t happen.

“So my advice about trebles or doubles or these things is, why are we not focused on Chelsea? It’s enough of a target to think about.

“When you have one or two games left to the end of the Premier League and you are already in the FA Cup final, I can answer you perfectly.

“We’ve felt, two times, how strong Chelsea are. They are really, really difficult.

“So, win that game and see what happens the next three, four, five games in the Premier League and after we will see.”

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