Pep Guardiola defended his Manchester City stars on Friday following reports they held a team-bonding party this week.
Reports claimed City’s players invited 22 Italian female Instagram models to attend the delayed Christmas party after last weekend’s Premier League win at Aston Villa.
It was suggested this was inappropriate behaviour given the Premier League champions were not allowed to attend City’s own Christmas event as Guardiola was concerned there would be a repeat of the 2018 gathering that saw several players out into the early hours.
But the City manager said he is a big believer in the value of his squad relaxing together.
Guardiola made it clear he was aware of the recent party and had no problem with players letting off steam.
“I knew (about) it. When they have time, they make a lot of dinners together, with the staff. They did it many times anyway,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.
“And I like it when they are together outside here, they do it sometimes at home, sometimes in a restaurant as was the case. It was nice.”
Nights out on the town are a fairly distant memory for Guardiola, who turns 49 when his team faces Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The Spaniard has been a manager since taking charge of Barcelona’s B team in 2007 and has the utmost respect for Palace boss Roy Hodgson — still going strong aged 72.
“Of course I admire him, it’s incredible that he’s got the passion to be manager, it’s incredible and they’re doing really well,” Guardiola said.
“The position when he took over, zero points and everyone thought they were relegated, he did an incredible job, it’s a pleasure and honour for me to face him. We’ve got a good relationship with him.”
– Future plans –
Guardiola, who has insisted he will be back to see out the final season of his current contract with City next term, said he cannot see himself still managing at Hodgson’s age.
“If I still like it and I have offers and I’m enjoying it on and off the pitch, I’d not say I’m going to retire next week or next year,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ll be at that age a manager but I don’t know. I think when you are managing at 72 it must be boring at home!
“You are with young people, athletes, competition, that’s why it’s nice, every game is different.
“That’s maybe the reason why Roy and older managers are still in charge and they do it.
“I think the important thing when you retire is to know you want to do other things.
“If you’ve no interests and you are at home then you are going to come back but if you want to travel or do other things. I’m interested in doing other things and I’m going to do it.”
Guardiola wished new Barcelona manager Quique Setien good luck after his appointment this week to replace Ernesto Valverde.
“I wish him all the best, I think we played once or twice,” Guardiola said.
“His teams always play really well, I followed him at Real Betis in Sevilla.
“I wish him all the best and his staff, to do the best for Barcelona.”