Soccer-Guardiola says 'closer to leaving than staying' after latest Man City triumph


Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v West Ham United - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - May 19, 2024 Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates with the trophy after winning the Premier League REUTERS/Molly Darlington

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Pep Guardiola raised the prospect of leaving Manchester City on Sunday minutes after steering them to an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title.

"The reality is I am closer to leaving than staying," the Spaniard told Sky News, before clarifying that there would be no immediate departure from the club he has managed since 2016.

"We have talked with the club - my feeling is that I want to stay now. I will stay next season and during the season we will talk. But eight or nine years - we will see."

At a news conference, Guardiola did not elaborate beyond saying he was naturally tired after another mammoth effort that ended in a remarkable sixth title in seven years for City.

But he reassured fans that he was up for the challenge of next weekend's FA Cup final against Manchester United and would no doubt find the motivation again for the next Premier League season as he has done repeatedly.

Guardiola was modest about his latest achievement, saying other managers such as Manchester United's Alex Ferguson had achieved more than him in the past.

And he was full of praise for this season's rivals, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who pushed him throughout.

"We competed incredibly well again and at the end, for a little margin, we won it, we did it ... We have done something incredible," he said, lavishing praise on his players.

"If I landed here tomorrow and they would say that in the next seven years, you will win six Premier Leagues, I would say ‘are you crazy?’

"It’s the Premier League, it’s the toughest one. This is the toughest for many reasons, the lack of recovery."

TRIBUTES TO KLOPP, ARTETA

Guardiola paid emotional tribute to Klopp, who managed Liverpool for the last time on Sunday, saying he was a great personality who had driven him to new heights.

"I will miss him a lot. He has been very important in my life," he said. "I just want to say thank you so much for his work. He helped me with his team. He has been a huge competitor in my life. With him, it has been so difficult."

Arteta, his former assistant at Manchester City, was another formidable rival who was there to stay, Guardiola said.

Arsenal finished just two points behind Manchester City after pushing them to the final day of the season.

"We got the message from Mikel and his players, we got it," he said. "We know they will be there for many years. Young manager with big talent - they sent us a message that you have to be careful for the next few years."

Guardiola's players were fulsome in their thanks.

"I just said congratulations, and he said 'no you congratulations'," said Jack Grealish.

"He's an unbelievable guy. I've had times this season that I've struggled off the pitch - I don't mind saying that - and he's been there for me so much. He's a brilliant manager on the pitch but behind closed doors and in his office, he's helped me too."

Erling Haaland, who won the Premier League Golden Boot for top scorer, said Guardiola was a tough but fantastic leader.

"It's a bit demanding at times. It's tough, but look what he's done. He demands a lot every single day," he said. "If you don't live up to what he expects you have a big problem. He's demanding and he's a lovely guy and I love him to pieces."

(Editing by Toby Davis)

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