Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan offered to Man City by agent Mino Raiola - Pep Guardiola
MANCHESTER, England -- Pep Guardiola has revealed that super-agent Mino Raiola offered him Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January.
The Manchester City manager hit back at Raiola after he was quoted as telling Dutch magazine that he was a "cowardly dog" after his treatment of ex-Barcelona forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, another of his clients.
Guardiola was asked about his rivalry with United manager Jose Mourinho ahead of Saturday's Manchester derby which could see City clinch the Premier League title.
But the Catalan said he had bigger rivalries than with the Portuguese boss before, saying he doesn't understand Raiola's attack after he had offered him his players "like wo months ago."
"I'll give you a huge list of my big rivalries, believe me," Guardiola told a news conference. "I never won [against] Mourinho and he never beat me, our teams beat the other ones, so I don't play against Jose. He doesn't play against me.
"Sometimes his teams, they beat me, sometimes I beat him, it's simple like that. After that we are in our careers, we are still in the business and we'll play 1,000 times more."
Asked about his rivalries, Guardiola added: "Finally, the people discover my secrets, I am a bad guy. I'm a coward.
"I don't understand why I am such a so bad guy. I never speak with him so his influence on my opinion, so I don't know maybe for Ibra explained many things about me.
"But being a guy like two months ago [why did] he offer me Mkhitaryan and Pogba to play with us.
"Why did he offer [them]? He was interested in Mkhitaryan and Pogba playing with us. So I'm like a guy, so he has to protect his players and he has to know so he cannot bring the players a guy like me, like a dog.
"And comparing a dog is bad. It's not good. He has to respect the dogs."
Guardiola described Pogba, who is expected to start against City on Saturday, as an "incredible player" but said he couldn't afford the French midfielder.
"I said 'no.' We don't have the money enough to buy Pogba because he is so expensive," Guardiola added.
"I'm surprised [he was offered] because I am a dog. So that's why. So like a dog, he comes to want his players to come here. So, no. No way."
In response, Raiola told the BBC: "I never spoke to Pep Guardiola. I would not speak to him about players, I would speak to Manchester City. They are a fantastic club with a fantastic manager.''
The claims appeared to come as a surprise to Pogba, who tweeted afterwards, "Say what?''
Say what? 👂🏾 pic.twitter.com/FGCGFqAe64— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) April 6, 2018
Guardiola insisted he wouldn't take any extra pleasure from taking the title from Mourinho following their bitter rivalry during their days at Barca and Real Madrid.
And he added that even a title victory against United would not eclipse City's dramatic title win in 2012 when Sergio Aguero scored the title-winning goal deep in injury time.
"I respect him a lot, Jose," he added. "We started the season wanting to win the Premier League.
"Nothing will be more emotional than when Sergio scored the goals in 2012, nothing could compare. I saw the images from YouTube. In that situation nothing can compare to that goal in the last minute to win the title after such a long time.
"Of course for the fans to win against United I can understand how special it can be, but in the end, I'm sorry.
"After the game vs. Liverpool, I recovered the bad moments I had and I was thinking about what we have to do to win the game, to control the [Romelu] Lukaku, Alexis [Sanchez], [Anthony] Martial, [Juan] Mata if he plays and what we have to do. Just focus on that."
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.