By Andy Hampson, PA
Pep Guardiola has refused to discuss the prospect of Manchester City signing Erling Haaland.
Mino Raiola, the agent of the prolific Borussia Dortmund striker, mentioned the Premier League champions as a potential destination when saying there is a “big chance” the Norwegian could move next summer.
Haaland, 21, is one of the hottest properties in the game having scored 72 goals in 74 appearances for Dortmund since joining the club in January 2020.
His contract reportedly contains a £64million release clause and he is known to have affection for City after his father, Alf Inge, played for the club in the early 2000s.
Yet Guardiola, who has previously clashed with Raiola, is unwilling to fuel any speculation.
Asked at a press conference, Guardiola said: “Next question. Don’t ask me about that – I’m not going to answer.”
Guardiola’s immediate concern is Saturday’s lunchtime visit of Wolves in the Premier League.
Bruno Lage’s side almost took a point off City’s title rivals Liverpool last weekend but were beaten by a goal deep into stoppage-time.
Guardiola, whose side have a one-point lead at the top of the table, said: “It’s not just about their game against Liverpool. You can take a look at the goals conceded (13) and goals converted (12) and the balance is so stable.
“It’s a team that concede few and don’t score much. It is quite similar to when we played against Wolves last year. They were always tight games for the quality they have.
“They are up there, they are doing an incredible season so far. We know it but at the same time we are in a good position to continue our run in the Premier League.”
The match is one of nine for City between December 1 and New Year’s Day but Guardiola insists he will not complain about the intensity of the schedule.
He said: “It’s good, it’s historic. I like to play in the winter time in this period. My words will not change anything.
“Every season I’ve seen statements on this for the last 20, 30, 40 years and nothing changes. We just adapt, adjust and pray players don’t get injured. We go on, go forwards.
“The players have the ability to excel to their limits as much as possible in what they have to do.”
Guardiola re-emphasised his recent calls for people to continue adhering to coronavirus guidelines.
The matter has come back into sharp focus following the emergence of the Omicron variant, the Government’s decision to tighten regulations and, with particular relevance for football, a Covid-19 outbreak at Tottenham.
Guardiola, who lost his mother to the virus last year, said: “The concern is always here – the variant or the pandemic is still in society. We follow the protocols. Everyone is alert because what happened with other clubs can happen here, absolutely. Wear masks, social distance, be careful.”