Pep Guardiola has said that he would leave Manchester City if the club’s supporters were not happy with him, yet insisted that his plea for more fans to attend the Etihad this weekend had been misinterpreted.
Guardiola called for “more people to come” to Saturday’s meeting with Southampton after 38,062 fans attended the 6-3 win over RB Leipzig earlier this week, around 17,000 short of the Etihad’s full capacity.
City’s attendances at Champions League games have tended to be lower than at weekend Premier League fixtures. The 5-0 wins over Norwich City and Arsenal both attracted around 52,000 fans, while an average of 54,219 attended league games last season.
Problems with a newly-implemented digital ticketing system at the Etihad have complicated matters this season, while large queues were visible outside the Etihad after kick-off as fans struggled to get into the ground.
Kevin Parker, general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, publicly criticised Guardiola’s remarks, suggesting that the Catalan was out of touch and that he should focus on coaching.
Guardiola appeared visibly upset and frustrated with the row at Friday’s pre-match press conference and chose to call out Parker specifically on several occasions, believing that he, other City fans and the media had misinterpreted his remarks.
When asked whether he could understand why supporters were frustrated by his comments, he said: “The club is always most important and the most important part of the club is the fans. They sustain here. We are here in the past. But now I love this club, I am part of this club, otherwise I would not be my sixth season here. I would not be here. So I am part of it.
“That is what I am so upset and grumpy and disappointed that this guy [Parker] pretend to tell me what I have to say, what I have to do and I know exactly what were my intentions. But the same. When people are not happy with me, I will leave, that’s for sure.”
“Listen, I make a press conference every three days, you’re a journalist all of you, you can ask what you want and I will answer honestly, the best way.
“[I am] always defending my club and my people, my players, my staff, my backroom staff and the people who try honestly to do the best for this organisation.
“We try to do the best football possible, make this contribution for the world football, to do the best, on the pitch and off the pitch and I’m very proud about the club I’m representing and until the last day I will do it.
“When there is something wrong, I will say it. When I don’t like something I say it. Here and privately. To my players. Because this is my job. This is what I get money for that. I have to take a decision every five minutes and I do it knowing in my head and my instinct what is the best for the club. Never put it above and beyond the club, never, ever.
Guardiola also refused to apologise for his remarks, insisting that he had only called on fans to attend as he expects Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton to be difficult opponents for his players, especially given the intensity of the Leipzig win.
“Did I say after the game against Leipzig that I was disappointed because the stadium was not full? No. Interpretation is interpretation. I’m not going to apologise for what I said,” he said.
“I’m surprised about what happened with [Parker]. It’s not the first time in my career I’ve said it, the same at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. When you play a tough Champions League game, knowing that you have another in three days and that Southampton have had all week to prepare. I know how difficult it was against Ralph last season.”
Guardiola added: “I made an approach to do something together again on Saturday at 3pm. What I said is that we would love, and need their support. Whether it’s 10,000 people, 50,000 or 40,000 – it doesn’t matter how many come – I invite them to come and enjoy a game.
“We need their support. After five seasons, if the people can’t understand my behaviour it is because they want to misunderstand exactly what I said. I’m not going to apologise for a second because I was honest.”