Pep Guardiola defended his Manchester City stars on Friday following reports they flew in 22 Italian Instagram models for their delayed Christmas party after last weekend’s 6-1 Premier League win at Aston Villa.
The defending 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.”
Guardiola’s side, second in the table, 14 points behind Liverpool, host Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The City boss, 48, said he had the utmost respect for Palace boss Roy Hodgson — still going strong aged 72.
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“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 (in the 2017-18 season) 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 said he will be back to see out the final season of his current contract with City next term, said he could not 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.”
“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,” he added. “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,” said Guardiola, who used to manage the club. “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.”