Premier League: Spying on opponents rife in European football, says Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

  • Guardiola said that clubs he has coached were involved in spying on their opponents after Leeds' Marcelo Bielsa admitted to using espionage tactics.

  • Guardiola made clear he has not been involved in any such activity during his time in England, adding that he did not direct staff to spy on other teams.

  • Guardiola has long been an admirer of Bielsa, saying recently that 'everyone who works with him is a better player'.

Manchester: Pep Guardiola said on Friday that clubs he has coached in the past were involved in spying on their opponents after Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa admitted to using espionage tactics.

The Manchester City manager made clear he has not been involved in any such activity during his time in England, adding that he did not direct staff to spy on other teams while coaching in Spain and Germany.

 Premier League: Spying on opponents rife in European football, says Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

File image of Pep Guardiola. Reuters

He did, however, acknowledge that the sort of tactics used by Bielsa are common outside of England.

Bielsa, the former Argentina, Chile and Marseille head coach, admitted earlier this week that he had spied on all of Leeds' opponents in the Championship this season, after a member of his staff was apprehended at Derby County's training ground.

Guardiola has long been an admirer of Bielsa, saying recently that "everyone who works with him is a better player" and added that his opinion on the Leeds coach had not changed.

The City manager, who had four years in charge at Barcelona and three at Bayern Munich, was asked twice at a press conference if he had ever spied on other teams. He did not deny it but suggested that he had not led any such activity.

"In other countries, everyone does it, everybody does that," he said. "The clubs are open. I was training at Bayern, there were people with cameras watching what we do. Everybody does that.

Spy culture

"It's the culture at other clubs, not just the previous one I was at. Whether it's now or in the future, it's part of the club. Not because I said you have to do that. It was part of the culture of the clubs and the leagues."

Guardiola, whose defending champions visit bottom side Huddersfield in the Premier League on Sunday, added that he fully respected that such activity is frowned upon in England.

"I'm not going to send anyone to spy on Huddersfield," he said.

The City manager indicated that the spying controversy surrounding Leeds was only a small part of a wider culture, in which "everyone wants to know everything".

He added: "That's not just football, it's society. Everyone is spying on everyone. They want to see what happens in the personal lives of this man or woman. They want the gossip. Everywhere is like this. It's not exceptional in football."

During a press conference to explain himself on Wednesday, Bielsa indicated that, as Athletic Bilbao coach, he had done in-depth research before the 2012 Copa de Rey final against Guardiola's Barcelona.

Even though Bilbao lost 3-0, Guardiola suggested immediately after the game that Bielsa's knowledge of Barcelona was even greater than his own.

The City manager, though, was satisfied that Bielsa had not sent anyone to spy on his team's training sessions at that time.

He said on Friday: "Barca was a bunker — it was impossible, like here (at City), but that's a true story."

Guardiola said he was impressed with the way Bielsa studied opponents.

"No manager around the world works with this information, they analyse one or two games.

"In the world he's unique but the most important thing I learned about what he said was that football belongs to the players, they make the difference, that's what I agree with most over what he said."

Guardiola has indicated that France full-back Benjamin Mendy is close to returning from a knee injury but will not be available for the Huddersfield match.

Updated Date: Jan 19, 2019 11:10:23 IST