Manager Pep Guardiola has dismissed reports that a small number of Manchester City players turned up for pre-season training overweight but stressed the importance of keeping players fit ahead of the new Premier League season.
Guardiola’s emphasis on fitness was highlighted when left back Gael Clichy revealed that the manager had taken pizzas off the menu at City and imposed strict weight parameters on the squad, with the threat of a ban from training with the first team if they were breached.
“They were not overweight but I want my players fit,” Guardiola told reporters on Wednesday.
“For me, the weight is so, so important. We need to run, to fight, to jump — to have the ball, after three days, then another three days, then another three days. When you are not fit, that’s when the injuries come.”
Guardiola, who is on a pre-season tour in China with City, has previously made use of defensive midfielders, such as Javier Mascherano and Javi Martinez, as centre backs in his first team and hinted he could do the same with Fernandinho.
“I think Fernandinho can play in 10 positions. He has the quality to play wherever. He could play at centre back,” he said.
“He has the quality to create good build-up. We think he can play there — maybe Fernando, too, but he’s not as quick. I like midfielders to play at centre back because they can play good passes.
Guardiola also said he would let the players decide who will lead them in the absence of injury-prone captain Vincent Kompany.
“The players have to choose the captain. They have to decide. If Vincent Kompany is not playing because he is injured, or (because of) my decision, it is not a big problem,” the 45-year-old said.
“We have a lot of experience. I am not in the locker room, I am not in the meetings. They have to choose themselves. They know each other better than me. That is their responsibility.”
Guardiola, who replaced Manuel Pellegrini, has already added four players, including winger Nolito and German midfielder Ilkay Guendogan, to the City ranks hoping to rebuild the squad after the club stumbled to a fourth-place finish last season.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach’s first season in England begins with a home clash against David Moyes’ Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium on Aug. 13.