Pep Guardiola reiterated he would "love" Lionel Messi to see out his career at Barcelona amid fresh speculation linking Manchester City with the superstar forward.

Messi was unsuccessful in his attempt to leave Barca on a free transfer at the end of last season but is out of contract next July.

The Argentina international thrived under Guardiola during their four seasons working together at Camp Nou and they have been tipped to reunite at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola agreed a new two-year deal with City on Thursday, intensifying speculation of a move for Messi going through next year, but he again spoke of his belief the six-time Ballon d'Or winner should remain at Barca.

"Messi is a player for Barcelona," he said at a pre-match news conference previewing Saturday's Premier League clash with Tottenham.

"If you ask me my opinion I have a huge gratitude for what Barcelona has done for me - in the academy, as a player and as a manager, they gave me absolutely everything.

“What I want is [for Messi] to finish his career there. I would love it, I would wish it. That is what I said I don't know how many times, maybe a thousand times. 

"Right now he's a Barcelona player and the transfer market will be in June or July. We have incredible games to play and achievements to try and achieve and this is only in our minds."

Guardiola's new deal will keep him at the Etihad Stadium until the end of the 2022-23 campaign and the Catalan coach is keen to add to his collection of trophies.

"All the managers are there to win titles," he said. "We did an incredible job to win eight of them. 

"I say an incredible thank you for the opportunity to continue here. People say thanks to me but I say thanks to the club. They are the reason I am here. 

"They gave me a lot, we continue to do the best for our people to do the best as possible."

The contract extension also ends speculation over a possible return to Barcelona for Guardiola, who was keen to praise City for the way they have handled off-the-field issues this year.

"There are many reasons why I signed," he said. "The club didn't ask the government for furlough, didn't fire one person. They showed me the club how good they are in many things. 

"The decision was not just mine. The squad are all comfortable together and we will now try to continue doing what we have done in these previous seasons."

Lionel Messi has every right to be "p****d off" at being questioned over his relationship with Antoine Griezmann, according to Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman.

Griezmann's former representative Eric Olhats last week suggested the Barca captain has played a significant role in the France star's struggles at Camp Nou.

Messi was asked about the remarks after landing at El Prat Airport on Wednesday, having represented Argentina in a couple of World Cup qualifiers over the international break.

"I'm a little tired of always being the problem for everything at the club," he said.

Messi's comments come at a time when he continues to be linked with a move away from Barca, but Koeman insisted it is not fair on his player to be constantly questioned.

"I can understand that Leo is p****d off. You have to respect Leo more," he said at a news conference ahead of Saturday's LaLiga clash with Atletico Madrid.

"After such a long trip and asking about Antoine is disrespectful. It may be your intention to create a controversy. 

"I have never seen any confrontation between the two on the field, training ground or in the locker room. 

"I am not in favour of giving importance to Olhats because he stopped being Griezmann's agent years ago. What he said is b******t."

Koeman added: "I have to defend Leo because after 15 hours of travel, they do a one-hour check, and then you find a lot of press asking you a lot of questions."

Messi failed in an effort to walk away from Barca in August as the validity of his release clause was questioned due to last season being prolonged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Koeman reiterated he is hopeful the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will stay on beyond this season but conceded the decision is out of his hands.

"He still has a year on his contract. In my opinion he has to stay here," he said. "But I am not the person who has to convince him. Nobody knows what may happen in the future.

"It is incredible what he has done for this club. He is the person who will make a decision about his future."

The comments made by Olhats placed Griezmann's role at Barcelona firmly back in the spotlight, the forward having failed to make the desired impact since arriving in July 2019.

Griezmann has two goals and one assist in nine appearances this term and missed a penalty in Barca's last outing before the international break.

However, ahead of this weekend's trip to Griezmann's former club Atletico, Koeman reiterated he has no concerns over the Frenchman's form.

"No, because I see him concentrating, working and trying to help win the games," he said.

Philippe Coutinho is back in Barca's squad for the showdown at the Wanda Metropolitano, coinciding with the loss of Ansu Fati to a knee injury for the next four months.

"Philippe is okay," Koeman added. "He has been training for almost a week now and we have to talk to the physios about the best time for him to enter the match - from the start or from the bench.

"He is not a winger who likes to go deep; he plays more as an offensive midfielder. He is a great player and it is always good to have him because he is versatile."

Diego Simeone refused to give his two cents on Antoine Griezmann's struggles at Barcelona after it was suggested Lionel Messi was to blame.

Griezmann's former adviser Eric Olhats said last week the France star was made to feel unwelcome by Messi upon joining Barca from Atletico Madrid for €120million in July.

The 29-year-old is averaging a LaLiga goal every 273 minutes for the Blaugrana, far below his record of one every 152 minutes across five seasons at Atletico.

When asked about Olhats' remarks upon returning from international duty with Argentina on Wednesday, Messi said: "I'm tired of being to blame for everything that's wrong with the club."

Despite presiding over Griezmann's far more successful time at Atleti, Simeone was unwilling to give his opinion on why the move is yet to bear fruit ahead of his team welcoming Ronald Koeman's side to the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.

"I have a great personal affection for Antoine and it would not be appropriate for me to assess what is happening at Barcelona," said Simeone.

"Those questions are for the Barcelona coach, and he will explain what he sees fit."

Atleti lost Hector Herrera and Manu Sanchez to injury during the international break, while Luis Suarez and Lucas Torreira will miss out against Barca after testing positive for coronavirus.

"It wouldn't be my place to have an opinion on the coronavirus protocols," said Simeone.

"As for the positive tests that have affected us, we are part of society and some people can get it. We will have to use other players in the games and we hope Luis Suarez and Lucas recover as soon as possible.

"We are in a moment in the world in which this can happen, and it has affected us."

Barca have been in a state of turmoil since their Champions League quarter-final humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in August, but Simeone does not believe their tumultuous state gives Atleti a better chance of emerging from their game with all three points.

"Every game is an opportunity and obviously this is one. We will try to take the game where we can hurt them and play the game we want to," said Simeone.

"They are a rival with great standing, a squad that is being rejuvenated, but with young players with experience and an exceptional level.

"It will be hard, difficult and we will try to achieve what we want."

Atleti have failed to win in their past 20 LaLiga games against Barca, with their only worst such run against Real Madrid between 2000 and 2013.

However, they are the only undefeated team left in the division and are on a club-record 23-game unbeaten run, while Barca have only been victorious in one of their past five top-flight outings.

Will Lionel Messi be a Barcelona player for much longer?

Messi, who has called Camp Nou home for his entire senior career, is reportedly eyeing a sensational exit.

And Manchester City are continuing to pursue the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI, CITY RUMOURS GROW

Lionel Messi's links with Manchester City are tightening following Pep Guardiola's renewal, according to Diario AS.

Messi was tipped to join City after handing in a transfer request at the start of the season, but the Barca captain opted to remain at Camp Nou.

However, with manager Guardiola extending his City contract, rumours are intensifying.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Premier League's 'big six' are interested in signing Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. 90min claims Liverpool, City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are eyeing the veteran defender, who is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

Milan could be set for a busy January. Tuttomercato reports Milan want Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic on loan with an option to buy for €30million. Inter and Juventus have also been linked with the Serbia international. It comes as Rossoneri duo Andrea Conti and Leo Duarte face uncertain futures, while Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai continues to be linked to Milan.

- Kicker says Paris Saint-Germain are favourites to sign Bayern Munich's soon-to-be free agent David Alaba, who has also been linked to Madrid and City.

- Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri could join Juve in January, though Alaba and Atalanta star Robin Goosens are also options for the Serie A champions, according to Calciomercato.

Lionel Messi must be the Michael Jordan of Barcelona, according to presidential candidate Jordi Farre.

Barcelona have been without an official president since Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned at the end of October ahead of an expected vote of no confidence.

The presidential election is scheduled to take place on January 24, and Farre is among the candidates, though Victor Font is the heavy favourite to win.

After Messi handed in a transfer request at the start of the season before opting to stay at Camp Nou, Farre outlined his long-term plans for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, highlighting NBA Hall of Famer and Chicago Bulls great Jordan.

"Doubting what Messi has given us is even in bad taste," Farre told Esport3.

"Messi has to be offered a life project. We have to turn Messi into Barca's Jordan.

"We are working to offer Messi a project in the institutional life of the club."

Messi – out of contract at season's end – continues to be linked with Premier League giants Manchester City.

"We have already spoken with Messi's environment," Farre said. "We have a proposal. The offer is not economic.

"Leo has already made a lot of money. It is a love story. I am sure I have a project that will convince Messi."

Messi returned to Barca to work under new head coach Ronald Koeman after failing to engineer a move away, but 2020-21 has been far from a vintage season for the superstar captain.

The 33-year-old has scored three goals in seven LaLiga games this term, while he has six across all competitions.

Messi's minutes per-goal-rate of 195 is only good enough for 28th among players to have featured in at least five LaLiga games this season.

Barca – eighth in LaLiga and nine points off the pace – travel to Atletico Madrid on Saturday following the international break.

Messi has scored 12 goals in 17 LaLiga appearances against Atletico under Diego Simeone, more than any other player, whilst he is also the player to have scored the most LaLiga goals against goalkeeper Jan Oblak (eight goals in 11 games).

Lionel Messi is the only number one in football as former Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic hailed the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Rakitic won 13 trophies, including four LaLiga titles and the Champions League, alongside superstar captain Messi at Barca before returning to Spanish rivals Sevilla at the start of the season.

Messi – Barca's all-time leading scorer – is regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport and Rakitic lauded the 33-year-old attacker, who has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou.

"One hundred per cent football. It doesn't matter who you are, you just have to watch and enjoy this guy. He's on another level," Rakitic told FIFA.com.

"With all respect to the other greats, there's only one number one – it's Leo. To play 311 games next to him, it was a dream.

"I enjoyed it so, so much. I just want to say this: 'Thank you for everything, Leo, because you'll never know how much it meant to me to play next to you'."

Messi's future remains an important topic at Barca after he handed in a transfer request following a tumultuous 2019-20 season.

Argentina's all-time leading scorer and captain was tipped to join Premier League powerhouse Manchester City before opting to remain in Spain, though he has since been linked to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

Messi returned to Barca to work under new head coach Ronald Koeman after failing to engineer a move away, but 2020-21 has been far from a vintage season for him.

He has scored three goals in seven LaLiga games this term, while he has six across all competitions.

Messi's minutes per-goal-rate of 195 is only good enough for 28th among players to have featured in at least five LaLiga games this season.

Barca – eighth in LaLiga and nine points off the pace – travel to Atletico Madrid on Saturday following the international break.

Messi has scored 12 goals in 17 LaLiga appearances against Atletico under Diego Simeone, more than any other player, whilst he is also the player to have scored the most LaLiga goals against goalkeeper Jan Oblak (eight goals in 11 games).

Rivaldo believes this season will be Lionel Messi's last with Barcelona amid ongoing links to Manchester City.

Messi's future remains an important topic at Barca after he handed in a transfer request following a tumultuous 2019-20 season.

The superstar Barca captain was tipped to join Premier League powerhouse City before opting to remain in Spain, though he has since been linked to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

Former Barca star Rivaldo feels the club's new board will be unable to convince six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi to stay beyond 2020-21.

"Barcelona had already negotiated some salary cuts [amid the coronavirus pandemic] with players and also tried to make a general cut that was declined by the squad, so, this is not new for the players," Rivaldo, who won two LaLiga titles, the Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup during his time at Camp Nou, wrote in his column for Betfair.

"But it does reinforce the idea that reaching an agreement to renew Messi's contract is going to be tough with a reduced margin to increase his salary.

"Of course, Messi will have better offers from other clubs, and was already trying to leave the club by the end of last season. I can't see how our board will convince him to take a step back on that decision.

"In my opinion, only winning a Champions League or La Liga title this season, or watching Koeman getting the team playing beautiful football can convince Messi to reconsider his options. Unfortunately I'm afraid this will be his last season with the club."

Messi returned to Barca to work under new head coach Ronald Koeman after failing to engineer a move away, but 2020-21 has been far from a vintage season for him.

The 33-year-old has scored three goals in seven LaLiga games this term, while he has six across all competitions.

Messi's minutes per-goal-rate of 195 is only good enough for 28th among players to have featured in at least five LaLiga games this season.

Barca – eighth in LaLiga and nine points off the pace – travel to Atletico Madrid on Saturday following the international break.

Messi has scored 12 goals in 17 LaLiga appearances against Atletico under Diego Simeone, more than any other player, whilst he is also the player to have scored the most LaLiga goals against goalkeeper Jan Oblak (eight goals in 11 games).

Sergio Ramos is expected to miss at least three games for Real Madrid after the club confirmed he has suffered a hamstring strain.

While Madrid did not specify how long they will be without their captain, reports in the Spanish media claimed he will not be available again in November.

Zinedine Zidane's side are due to face Villarreal in LaLiga on Saturday, with a clash against Deportivo Alaves following a Champions League trip to Inter on Wednesday.

Ramos was forced off with the injury in the first half of Spain's 6-0 triumph over Germany in the Nations League on Tuesday.

A Madrid statement released on Thursday read: "After the tests carried out today on Sergio Ramos by the Real Madrid medical department, the player has been diagnosed with a strained hamstring in his right leg. His recovery will continue to be assessed."

Zidane will also have concerns over Raphael Varane after the centre-back went off at half-time in France's 4-2 victory against Sweden.

Madrid's defensive options are not expected to be depleted entirely, however, with Eder Militao (coronavirus) and Nacho Fernandez (knee) set to return for the trip to Estadio de la Ceramica.

Los Blancos have played 115 LaLiga games without Ramos since he signed from Sevilla in August 2005 and have only lost 10 of those.

Their win percentage when he does not feature is 78.3 per cent, compared to 67.1 across his 462 appearances in the top flight.

Madrid have lost two of their past four LaLiga games, as many as in their previous 33 matches in the competition, and they will be looking to stop Villarreal making it seven unbeaten in the league, which would represent their best run since October 2016.

Manchester City have tied Pep Guardiola down to a new two-year contract. Could Lionel Messi be next?

Messi has long been linked with a reunion with Guardiola, with whom he won 14 of his 34 trophies at Barcelona during a four-year spell that saw the Argentinian ascend to a level that established him among the greatest players of all time.

Reports of a potential move to City intensified in August after the six-time Ballon d'Or winner informed Barca of his desire to leave the club.

Messi had been banking on being allowed to depart on a free transfer as previously promised by then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who subsequently informed him he would not be allowed out of the final year of his contract unless a fee was negotiated.

Guardiola reportedly met with Messi in Barcelona and told him City would be unable to enter such negotiations and advised him to see out his deal at Camp Nou.

With the Catalan's presence at the Etihad Stadium locked in until 2023, it could be argued that the groundwork is in place to pull off one of the biggest signings in history.

 

A marriage made in Barcelona

Under Guardiola, Messi played more games (219), scored more goals (211) and supplied more assists (79) in all competitions than he has for any other coach.

The Argentina star enjoyed his most prolific campaign in 2011-12 – Guardiola's last before leaving to take a sabbatical.

In just 60 appearances in all competitions he accumulated an incredible 73 goals and 29 assists, both of which remain personal bests for a single season. He scored 50 times in LaLiga, the best all-time mark and one that is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

Across the entirety of 2012, he set a world record by scoring 91 goals – 79 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina. His performances saw him become the first player to win the Ballon d'Or four times, and they came in successive years.

A disappointing start

Messi returned to Barca to work under Ronald Koeman after failing to engineer a move away, but 2020-21 has been far from a vintage season for him.

In his first nine games of the campaign he scored four goals, although every one of them came from the penalty spot.

He started on the bench for the visit of Real Betis prior to the international break due to concerns over his "freshness", but he came on for the second half and registered a double – ending his wait for a goal from open play with his second.

His minutes per-goal-rate of 195 is only good enough for 28th among players to have featured in at least five LaLiga games this season.

 

Could it actually happen?

Messi evidently remains unsettled at Camp Nou. Upon returning from international duty on Wednesday, he was asked for his thoughts on comments made by Antoine Griezmann's former representative Eric Olhats.

Olhats accused the club captain of overseeing a "reign of terror" at Barca and making Griezmann feel unwelcome following his arrival from Atletico Madrid for a fee of €120million in July 2019.

Messi responded: "I'm tired of being blamed for everything that's wrong at the club."

Guardiola has previously urged Messi to retire at Barca, but his change in circumstances at City may well alter his position on the issue.

Joao Felix apparently has no plans to leave Atletico Madrid for Paris Saint-Germain.

Joao Felix, 21, is enjoying a fine campaign with the LaLiga giants, having struggled during his first season in 2019-20 after his arrival from Benfica.

The playmaker has attracted interest from PSG.

 

TOP STORY – FELIX WANTS ATLETICO STAY AMID PSG INTEREST

Joao Felix is not thinking about leaving Atletico Madrid amid Paris Saint-Germain's interest, according to Record.

Signed by Atletico for a reported €126million last year, Joao Felix has started to star for Diego Simeone's side.

Only Mikel Oyarzabal (six goals and two assists) has been directly involved in more LaLiga goals than Joao Felix (five goals and two assists) this season.

Joao Felix has also created five big chances – the second most behind Sergio Canales – for Atletico, who are unbeaten in LaLiga ahead of hosting Barcelona on Saturday.

 

ROUND-UP

- Out of contract at Bayern Munich at the end of the season, David Alaba is expected to leave the Bundesliga champions. Marca reports the defender is an option for Real Madrid and a move is not dependant on Sergio Ramos' future with the LaLiga giants.

- Another Madrid defender, Raphael Varane, is also linked with a move. The Manchester Evening News says Manchester United may again look at the defender, who is contracted at Madrid until 2022.

- Isco's time at Madrid could finally be coming to an end. El Confidencial reports Isco, who is in his eighth season at Madrid, is on the market. Everton have been linked with the attacker.

- A decision about RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano's future could be close. Bild says a call could be made in January amid links to United and Liverpool, with his €45m release clause reportedly too much for Bayern.

- Mariano Diaz may be set for a Madrid exit. The Daily Mail reports West Ham have been offered the chance to sign the forward, potentially on loan initially.

Luka Jovic has struggled since joining Real Madrid last year, but the Serbia star put his goalscoring woes behind him during the international window.

Jovic swapped Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt for Madrid in a €60million transfer in 2019, however, he has only managed two goals in 32 appearances for the LaLiga champions.

Out of favour and out of touch in the Spanish capital, Jovic returned to form for Serbia in the latest international break.

After scoring in Serbia's stunning Euro 2020 play-off defeat to Scotland last week, Jovic netted a brace as the Balkan side routed Russia 5-0 in Nations League action on Wednesday.

With three goals in as many games for Serbia, it means Jovic had more goals for the national team than his entire career with Los Blancos.

Jovic has not scored for Madrid since their 4-1 LaLiga demolition of Osasuna in February this year.

The 22-year-old has started twice in his four league appearances for Madrid in 2020-21, only managing one shot on target – a shooting accuracy of 16.7 per cent – as he eyes his opening goal of the campaign.

In the Champions League, Jovic has featured once and just like LaLiga, he has only mustered one shot on target for Zinedine Zidane's men.

Atletico Madrid have lost another player ahead of their LaLiga clash with Barcelona after Lucas Torreira tested positive for coronavirus.

Torreira, signed on loan from Arsenal in October, underwent PCR tests for COVID-19 after returning from international duty with Uruguay.

His Uruguay team-mate Luis Suarez is already self-isolating due to contracting the virus, and now it has been confirmed Torreira too has tested positive.

Atleti announced the news on their official website and added that Torreira – who has made seven appearances in all competitions for Diego Simeone's side – is asymptomatic and complying with quarantine protocols.

Torreira started in both of Uruguay's World Cup qualifiers, against Colombia and Brazil, during the international break.

Unbeaten Atleti sit third in LaLiga, five places and six points ahead of Ronald Koeman's Barca side heading into Saturday's meeting.

Lionel Messi hit back after Antoine Griezmann's former representative suggested the Barcelona captain has played a significant role in the France star's struggles at Camp Nou.

Griezmann's ex-adviser Eric Olhats last week alleged to France Football that Messi – whom he claimed "has power over everything" at Barca – objected to the signing of Griezmann and "made him feel unwelcome".

Messi returned to Barcelona on Wednesday having represented Argentina in a pair of World Cup qualifiers and was asked about the comments as he left El Prat Airport.

He said: "I'm a little tired of always being the problem for everything at the club."

Barca signed Griezmann from Atletico Madrid for €120million in July 2019 but he has failed to live up to expectations.

He has scored 11 goals and supplied five assists in 42 LaLiga appearances for the Blaugrana, averaging a goal every 273 minutes – the 36th best in the division among players to have appeared at least 20 times.

In his five seasons at Atletico, Griezmann scored a goal every 152 minutes – the eighth best in the league for those to have featured over 100 times.

Since Griezmann joined him at Barca, Messi has scored 28 goals and supplied 21 assists in LaLiga. Only Luis Suarez can better Messi's average of a goal every 124 minutes in that time.

The Argentina superstar has been under intense scrutiny this season after failing to force through a move away from Barca, where his contract is set to expire at the end of the season, and appears unwilling to suffer any criticism he deems undue.

During his interview, Olhats added: "[Messi] is as much an emperor as a monarch and he didn't take kindly to the signing of Antoine.

"His attitude has been deplorable ... I've always disliked hearing Griezmann say that there are no issues with Messi but never the other way around. It's a reign of terror. You're either with him or against him.

"Last season, when Griezmann arrived, Messi didn't speak to him and didn't pass him the ball. I think he suffered because of a negative adaptation."

Eduardo Camavinga appears willing to sign a contract extension at Rennes despite reported interest from Real Madrid and Juventus.

Juve are said to be keen to rival Madrid for the signature of the 18-year-old midfielder, who has a contract at Roazhon Park until the end of next season.

However, Camavinga, who has made over 50 appearances for Rennes and earned three France caps, claimed not to be interested in securing a big move at this stage of his career.

"It's not something that comes into my head, that I think about constantly," said Camavinga when asked about his future.

"I see and I hear [the talk]. These are things that give me pleasure. I'm at Rennes and other clubs, that's not for now. We'll see.

"I have two years left on my contract and we'll have time to talk. There will be talks. To prolong my stay at the club that formed me would make me happy.

"Obviously, the big clubs are a dream. After that I could not name one in particular."

Injury kept Camavinga out of contention for France's latest batch of international matches, but the past week has still seen him achieve the significant milestone of getting his driving licence.

"For the moment, my parents don't let me drive too much," he said. "I'm waiting to have my own car. We'll see if they let me."

Cesc Fabregas still considers his former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho "a friend" but has revealed he is not on speaking terms with Pep Guardiola despite considering him an idol.

Fabregas, now 33 and playing for Monaco, has been one of European football's most recognisable midfielders since breaking into the Arsenal first-team as a 16-year-old in 2003.

His emergence as one of the world's best saw him switch back to Barcelona – whom he had represented as a child – in 2011 and he played under club icon Guardiola, winning six trophies across three seasons.

It was around this time that the Clasico divide with Real Madrid was arguably at its most vociferous in a generation, stoked by off-pitch – and occasional mid-match – barbs thrown by either Guardiola or his Los Blancos counterpart Mourinho.

But despite the fierce backdrop of the Clasicos of this era, which were said to have led to issues within the Spanish national team, Fabregas was ultimately lured away from Barca in 2014 by Mourinho and Chelsea.

"Mourinho was the one who inspired me the most to leave Barca," Fabregas explained to Tot Costa.

"He told me that we had them on the pitch when he was at Chelsea and I at Arsenal, and then when he was training for Real Madrid and I was at Barcelona, ​​but for him it all ended there.

"He told me about his project. I prioritised the professional side, and today I continue to write with him and consider him a friend, he helped me a lot at the time and maybe with him I played one of my best seasons."

It is easy to see why Fabregas feels such a way – in his year and a half under Mourinho, who was sacked in December 2015, the Spaniard was highly influential and won the 2014-15 Premier League title.

He attempted more passes (3,832) than anyone else in the Premier League during this time, while his 3,238 completed passes was not matched by anyone.

On top of that, he also recorded a league-high 20 assists and 4,698 ball touches in this period, highlighting his importance.

Similarly, his 120 chances created was bettered by only three players.

But Fabregas' time working with Guardiola did not inspire the same kind of friendship despite previously idolising the former midfielder.

"With Guardiola, I have not spoken again," he said. "There are things that happened that I do not have to talk about.

"He was my idol in my childhood, perhaps he is the person from whom I have learned the most as a player, as an idol and later as a coach, but that's it."

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