Pep Guardiola united with Jurgen Klopp over the North v South All Star Game debate, and fired an ominous Erling Haaland-shaped warning after he scooped an award.
As the figurehead of Chelsea’s colossal takeover earlier in 2022, part-owner Todd Boehly is well within his rights voicing his say. While speaking at the SALT networking conference earlier this week, Boehly put forward a North versus South All Star Game idea.
The proposition would see two squads selected from teams based on their geographical location in England. Those in the Midlands such as Aston Villa and Leicester may have to be split to facilitate an equal 10 and 10 split.
The idea has its roots in American sports. Indeed, Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL all utilise All Star games. The NFL feature the Pro Bowl, though that is just another name for the same concept.
The idea has been derided in some quarters, though Boehly has received praise in others for thinking outside the box.
Regardless, one particular group within football appear almost unanimously against the idea – the managers.
Jurgen Klopp’s first response when asked in his latest press conference revolved around fixture congestion. Those in the upper echelons of the league already struggle with fixture pile-up and Klopp for one had little positive to say on the matter.
Steven Gerrard also dismissed the idea in rather more polite terms. Now, Man City’s Pep Guardiola has weighed in and echoed Klopp’s stance.
Speaking in a Friday press conference (via the Manchester Evening News): Guardiola said: “I don’t have opinion. No, no. I don’t have opinion.
“[I] agree with Jurgen [Klopp]. If they give me the dates when this should be played it would be nice…”
Pep namechecks three Wolves players with challenge awaiting
Man City face Wolves in the early kick-off on Saturday and could take top spot for the time being with a draw.
Wolves may field free agent signing Diego Costa for the clash with Raul Jimenez and Sasa Kalajdzic both ruled out. However, Guardiola admitted he may still be without two of his finest defenders for such a challenge.
He continued: “Aymeric (Laporte) is back in training but is not ready. Kyle (Walker) is getting better but I am not sure if tomorrow he will be ready.
“We will see in training this afternoon this afternoon. (On Kalvin Phillips) [He is] a little better.”
Wolves have proved difficult opponents for City on occasion during Guardiola’s reign. While City have won the last four meetings between the two sides, Wolves emerged victorious in the previous two.
Guardiola is fully aware of the challenge his side faces, especially after the short turnaround from playing UCL football on Wednesday night.
Naming three players in particular that his side must be wary of, Guardiola said: “Completely different team to different seasons.
“They used to play five at the back now with Coady now with four. I’m really impressed with how they play, unpredictable.
“They have a lot, a lot of really good things. Centre-backs, attack out-side, inside, a lot of talent with [Ruben] Neves, [Goncalo] Guedes, [Joao] Moutinho, all of them. They are competitors.
“One of the toughest opponents we have faced in last season and tomorrow will be no exception.
“We have to be prepared. We have to mentally prepare.”
Haaland will get even better – Guardiola
Finally, Pep fired a warning to Man City’s rivals regarding Erling Haaland.
The Norwegian has a scarcely believable 13 goals from his first nine matches at City. His league tally in August ended at nine goals in five.
Predictably, that resulted in Haaland scooping the Premier League player of the month award at his first time of asking.
That prize is sure to be the first of many, and Guardiola warned their rivals Haaland’s ambition will result in him getting even better.
“At the age that he has, his ambition, he wants to better,” continued Guardiola.
“A perfect person, a nice guy. He already had the quality.”