Guardiola ‘in love’ with Verratti; hails uncontrollable Messi

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Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he is “in love” with Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti, while he also lavished Lionel Messi in praise after his side lost in the Champions League.

Messi scored his first goal for PSG after Idrissa Gueye’s opening-half breakthrough in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over City in the French capital.

While Messi stole the headlines with his stunning 74th-minute goal, Guardiola heaped praise on Verratti – who helped Italy win Euro 2020 before the start of the season.

“I’m in love,” Guardiola told reporters post-match. “He’s an exceptional player because he’s under pressure and has the calmness to take on extra touch and in that moment create extra passes behind our midfield players.

“I know the character and personality that he has and he did it again. I’m happy he’s back from his injury and yeah, an exceptional player.

“He’s not tall from his aspect from outside, but when you see how he moves, how he plays… he’s not a player for long distance passes, but you can count on him to always help to make a build up and know exactly where the spaces are to create other situations.

“Especially in the first half, second half was much better controlled by Kevin [De Bruyne], but first half we were a little bit soft with him.”

Messi has scored more Champions League goals against City (seven) than any other player, while his seven strikes against sides managed by Pep Guardiola (two against Bayern Munich, five versus City with him as manager) is also the most of any player in the competition’s history.

Meanwhile, Messi has scored 27 Champions League goals against English clubs – 15 more than any other player. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals against opponents of a specific nation (28, versus German teams) in Champions League history.

City were heavily linked with Messi before the six-time Ballon d’Or winner joined PSG at the conclusion of his Barcelona contract during the off-season.

“I wish, through my short personal relationship with him, I wish him the best,” Guardiola said. “If he’s happy and enjoying this period in Paris, I will be happy. He made me so happy when we worked together, he decided for many reasons to come here, for him and his family I wish him the best.”

On dealing with Messi, Guardiola added: “We deal with PSG first of all. We know that it is impossible to control Leo [Messi] during the [whole] 90 minutes, but they were not giving him a lot of touches of the ball.”

City suffered their first Champions League group-stage defeat since September 2018, when they lost 2-1 to Lyon – they had been unbeaten in 18 such games since then.

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