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‘I’m sorry’: Pep Guardiola apologises to Kalvin Phillips for weight comment

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola has issued a belated apology to Kalvin Phillips for saying the player was overweight on returning from World Cup duty with England back in December 2022.

The midfielder is still contracted to Manchester City but last month agreed a loan move to West Ham until the end of the season after managing just two league starts in a miserable 18-month spell at the Etihad Stadium. Phillips, however, has endured an inauspicious start to his stint with the Hammers, making two high-profile errors that led to the concession of goals. He was then shown a red card in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest.
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Phillips gave an interview this month in which he admitted Guardiola’s comments had “a big knock on my confidence” and revealed his family had been particularly unhappy after the subsequent backlash. “He was right to do so but there are different ways to go about it,” said the 28-year-old. “It was just a misunderstanding and I think he was very frustrated with me coming back 1.5kg over my weight target.”

Speaking in a press conference before City’s Premier League game against Brentford on Tuesday night , Guardiola admitted he now regretted what he said. “Yeah, I’m sorry. Once in eight years is not bad. But I’m so sorry. I apologise to him,” he said. “I spoke to him before [making the comment]. I never, ever don’t speak to the team before I say something here, or the player in that case.”

Phillips was a £42m signing for City from Leeds in July 2022 and had been a mainstay in Gareth Southgate’s England squad before his struggles in Manchester.

Rodri tended to occupy the position in which Phillips thrived at Leeds and when City further bolstered their midfield with deals for Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes from Chelsea and Wolves respectively last summer, the writing appeared to be on the wall. Phillips was linked with Newcastle and Juventus before eventually sealing the loan to West Ham.

Guardiola added that City are under “the same pressure” as ever, despite having dropped points with the 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea while title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal both stormed to thumping wins. City are four points off Jürgen Klopp’s league leaders with a game in hand.

“We have the opportunity to climb to the second position, to go one point in front of Arsenal, to go close to Liverpool and there’s still a lot of games to play,” added Guardiola. “The reality is, since we lost to Aston Villa, we didn’t lose one game and in the games we drew, we were better.

“ When we win the next game, we have the same pressure. The last 15 games, we won 13 and drew two, and the two we drew we played to win the game. The pressure is the same, no difference.

“Are we going to win the Premier League? I don’t know. Are Man City going to win the Premier League for the next 10 years? No, it is not going to happen. But we are still there and this is why we continue. We’re not satisfied with the [Chelsea] result but it’s part of the game and you don’t play alone. We played good, we had not a lot of chances, a lot more in the second half than the first. This has to continue to improve and be focused [for us] to be in the title race. I am the first to demand that my team do it over 95 minutes.”

Guardiola confirmed the Brentford match would come too soon for Jack Grealish and Josko Gvardiol, who are out injured, but he otherwise has a fully fit squad to select from. The reigning champions won the reverse fixture 3-1 earlier this month thanks to a Phil Foden hat-trick.