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Kelechi Iheanacho Still in Line for First Team Football at Man City

It could be a move to detract attention from rivalry interest but Pep Guardiola has downplayed recent talk of Kelechi Iheanacho’s place in Manchester City by stating that, the Nigerian will get an opportunity at first team football despite having a great option of forwards to select from. Iheanacho has only started three Premier League games under the Spaniard – six in total this year.

In response to a question inquiring what it would take for the 20-year-old to get first team opportunities, Guardiola first joked, “Change the coach maybe.”

He then went on a serious note to add, “Of course he deserves to play, but there are many, many others who deserve to play too.

“Our job is so uncomfortable for these kind of decisions.

“Normally when these guys don’t train good, when they are not nice guys with his teammates, it doesn’t matter, but that is not the case with Kele.”

On Iheanacho playing, Guardiola adds, “My advice is keep going, keep fighting, sooner or later everything is coming back, and of course he’s going to have his minutes.

“Until now he played good, but in the big teams sometimes that happens. You can play just 11 players and that’s all.”

However, the arrival of £27m Brazilian international, Gabriel Jesus in January and leading scorer Sergio Aguero’s good form are subject to limiting Iheanacho’s chances of playing even more. Meanwhile, the return of Yaya Toure made an impression which adds more attacking options for Guardiola who prefers playing a lone striker.

Nonetheless, Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur are believed to have an interest in the City forward with the former raising more speculations over a favored move to Nou Camp.

According to reports, Barcelona – who missed out on signing the Nigerian forward for nothing after helping Nigeria win the UAE FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he also won the Golden Ball, have revived an interest in the player.

Iheanacho who signed a two-year contract extension – keeping him at the club until summer of 2021, has made 12 appearances for City and already has four goals and three assists this season. An impressive feat for a player who has had little playing time.

However, Guardiola is also aware of Iheanacho’s talent and knows an interest from Barcelona is nothing short of identifying talent. The City coach is adamant about letting transfer rumors amount to a loss of one of his developing players.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I know if it were to be Barcelona, they won’t sell Iheanacho. He’s committed to this club and at present players could come in but I doubt if players will leave this club,”[/perfectpullquote]

Guardiola told one of Manchester’s leading ration stations.

He added, “It’s very essential to keep your assets. What he will do for them in Barcelona, he will do it here. For Barcelona to have launched a bid for a player, it shows how important and talented such a player is but for Iheanacho, I think they should take their mind off him because he’s part of us and very important for this team.”

Barcelona’s interest is reportedly an attempt to back up the Spanish club’s frontline – Neymar, Suarez and Messi but Iheanacho has brushed off the transfer rumors and instead chosen to improve and win games under Guardiola.


Featured Photo: Pep Guardiola is yet to fully utilize Kelechi Iheanacho despite acknowledging the player’s skills. (Reuters)

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