Pep Guardiola’s history of axing biggest stars amid Man City transfer uncertainty

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Pep Guardiola has never been afraid to axe big names.

He walked through the door at Barcelona and ditched Ronaldinho and Deco before his debut season, then cast aside Samuel Eto'o the following year – despite his key role in the Blaugrana's treble success.

Now the Manchester City boss, after a third Premier League title in four years and a trip to the Champions League final, is making similar moves as he looks to reinvigorate his squad.

Sergio Aguero has been allowed to leave for Barcelona and more could follow with potentially the likes of Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte and even Raheem Sterling heading through the Etihad exit door if attractive offers arrive.

Sergio Aguero has joined Barcelona from Manchester City
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

But how go things go for the Catalan when he kicks his biggest names through the exit door?

He's made plenty of friends at Barca, Bayern Munich and City during his managerial career, but hasn't shirked making enemies either in his first three jobs.

Mirror Sport takes a look at the biggest stars who have been axed by the legendary boss…

Barcelona

2008-09: Dumps Ronaldinho, Deco, Gianluca Zambrotta

Ronaldinho was a Barcelona icon but Pep Guardiola decided to sell the Brazilian
(Image: GETTY)

Starting out as a 37-year-old coach, Guardiola had to make his mark at Camp Nou. And what better way to show his squad who is boss than showing the door to two of Barca’s most established creative talents?

Ronaldinho had been an incredible signing and achieved iconic status in Catalonia. But the combination of Lionel Messi’s emergence and his own decline due to off-field issues saw his days numbered.

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"All of the players in the first-team squad last season are of a very high level," he said when quizzed about their futures.

"But with the technical secretary we are forming a squad and Deco, Ronaldinho, and Eto'o are not in our minds."

Ironically, Ronaldinho turned down the chance to join Man City’s revolution under new owner Sheikh Mansour and headed to AC Milan with Zambrotta in the summer of 2008. Deco, meanwhile, joined Chelsea and spent two seasons at Stamford Bridge.

2009-10: Dumps Samuel Eto’o, Eidur Gudjohnsen

Samuel Eto'o had the last laugh after being sold by Pep Guardiola
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Guardiola probably does not have many regrets in his career, but the decision to let goal machine Samuel Eto’o join Inter in a costly £40m part-exchange deal for Zlatan Ibrahimovic will haunt his Barca tenure.

The Cameroonian had struck 36 goals in all competitions in the 2008-09 campaign but clearly didn’t fit Guardiola’s style of football he wanted to implement.

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The Serie A outfit, managed by Jose Mourinho at the time, almost snapped their hands off to sign the prolific frontman and he went on to win the Treble in his first season in Italy, while Ibrahimovic fell out with Guardiola.

He continued the clear-out by flogging Gudjohnsen to Monaco for a £2m fee to make room for Bojan Krkic and Pedro, who was promoted from the B team.

2010-11: DumpsYaya Toure, Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, Dmytro Chygrynskyi

Thierry Henry left Barcelona for MLS outfit New York Red Bulls in 2010

The ultimate summer clear-out began after Barcelona pipped Real Madrid to LaLiga and won the Champions League thanks to Messi’s magic at Wembley.

It was very much a case of ripping up the playbook that had guaranteed the club success across the board and bringing a Spanish core to his side.

Which player do you think Pep Guardiola should have kept? Let us know in the comments section below.

Gone were Henry, Marquez and Toure, who joined New York Red Bulls and Manchester City and left with some hostility.

In came David Villa in a £35m deal from Valencia, while Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets were handed central roles in his team.

2011-12: Dumps Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bojan Krkic, Gabriel Milito

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pep Guardiola had a public falling out during their time at Barcelona
(Image: GETTY)

Having spent the previous season on loan at AC Milan, Ibrahimovic was glad to make the move a permanent one after his unceremonious fallout with Guardiola.

The Swede had launched several attacks in Guardiola’s direction, saying he “was not a man” and had “no balls”. The pair never worked together again.

Guardiola invested heavily to sign Alexis Sanchez from Udinese to construct a pacy, fluid attack, as well as bringing Cesc Fabregas back from Arsenal in a £33m deal.

Bayern Munich

2013-14: Dumps Mario Gomez, Emre Can, Luiz Gustavo

Mario Gomez was granted his wish to join Fiorentina from Bayern Munich
(Image: GETTY)

Having been brought in to succeed Jupp Heynckes after a historic Treble, Guardiola set about removing the dead wood from his squad.

That included seasoned Germany striker Mario Gomez, who was offloaded to Fiorentina after four years with the Bavarian giants.

Midfield duo Emre Can and Luis Gustavo left the club for Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, as Guardiola made room for Thiago Alcantara at the Allianz Arena despite his injury problems.

2014-15: Dumps Toni Kroos, Mario Mandzukic

Toni Kroos won the Champions League with Bayern Munich and then another three times with Real Madrid
(Image: GETTY)

Two players who did not seem a good fit for Guardiola’s fast-paced, high-energy brand of football were Mandzukic and Kroos.

They were sacrificed in the summer of 2014 to fund recruitment moves elsewhere, with Kroos running down his contract – Guardiola didn't want him to go, but didn't make major overtures to keep him either – allowing him to sign for Real Madrid for just £25m.

All in all, it was a fine window for Guardiola. He upgraded his strikeforce with the arrival of Robert Lewandowski on a free transfer to replace Mandzukic, who joined Atletico Madrid, and added some elegance to his midfield with the £8m signing of Xabi Alonso.

2015-16: Dumps Bastian Schweinsteiger, Xherdan Shaqiri, Dante

Bastian Schweinsteiger was criticised by Pep Guardiola for his lack of fitness

A loyal servant to the club where he had spent his entire career, Schweinsteiger was not exactly given a hero’s farewell by Guardiola, who took aim at his fitness levels.

But the 31-year-old, who joined Manchester United on a free transfer in 2015, said his relationship with the Bayern coach was “normal.”

Perhaps the feeling was not mutual, as Guardiola later said: ”Unfortunately, during the last three years [Schweinsteiger] was never in good condition.”

Dante had struggled for game time despite the absence of several defenders that season and joined Wolfsburg, while Shaqiri left to join ambitious Stoke City in a £13m deal.

Man City

2016-17: DumpsEdin Dzeko,Stevan Jovetic

Edin Dzeko had a big say in Manchester City's 2012 title-winning season but was sold by Pep Guardiola
(Image: GETTY)

The Catalan was brought in to replace Manuel Pellegrini after their failure to win silverware in 2015-16.

While Guardiola splashed the cash to the tune of £180m on John Stones, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus, outgoings were at a premium.

The ongoing trend of dumping strikers with a towering frame continued as Dzeko completed a permanent £9m switch to AS Roma following a successful loan spell.

Stevan Jovetic was sold to Inter Milan in a deal worth £12m after struggling to hit the heights at the Etihad Stadium and Guardiola would guide Man City to fourth place in his first season.

2017-18: Dumps Pablo Zabaleta, Nolito, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony, Kelechi Iheanacho

Pablo Zabaleta was a distinguished servant at Manchester City in his 10 years with the club
(Image: PA)

Zabaleta was always going to struggle for game time when City threw down £50m to bring Kyle Walker in from Tottenham and the club legend was allowed to leave for West Ham.

Guardiola had only signed Nolito for £16m the previous summer but the Spaniard struggled to acclimatise to life in England and headed back to LaLiga with Sevilla.

Nasri, Hart and Bony fell victim to a lack of game time under Guardiola and were shown the door along with Iheanacho, Aleksandar Kolarov, Fernando and Aaron Mooy in a transitional summer for the Manchester club.

2018-19: DumpsYaya Toure, Joe Hart, Brahim Diaz

Yaya Toure wrote a letter apologising to Pep Guardiola after his accusations in 2018.
(Image: Victoria Haydn/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Toure must have had a feeling of deja vu when he was booted out by Guardiola for a second time in his career, eight years after being sold by Barcelona.

The Ivorian accused Guardiola of “having problems with Africans wherever he goes” in an interview with France Football, comments he later apologised for, after being dropped for a crucial Champions League fixture.

Having been a phenomenal signing for the club, Toure left at the end of his contract and joined Olympiakos. Joe Hart, another key player in the Roberto Mancini era, opted to join Burnley for £3m.

On top of that, City raised funds by cashing in on their loanees such as Jason Denayer, Angus Gunn and Brahim Diaz as they looked to hang onto their Premier League title.

2019-20: Dumps Vincent Kompany, Fabian Delph, Danilo, Eliaquim Mangala

Pep Guardiola wanted to keep Vincent Kompany at the Etihad Stadium
(Image: X01095)

Kompany was the first arrival of Mansour’s rule in 2008 and after 11 years of service, the legendary Belgian left to take over as player/manager at Anderlecht.

Guardiola later revealed he had tried to convince Kompany to remain with the club as his assistant, such was his value to the club, but he wanted to try his hand at management.

His departure sparked an exodus of fringe players, with Delph, Danilo, Douglas Luiz and Mangala all allowed to leave.

2020-21: Dumps Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, David Silva, Claudio Bravo, Nicolas Otamendi

Pep Guardiola was accused of faking tears by Sergio Aguero's father
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A mixed bunch of goodbyes for Guardiola.

Sane was another who left on a bitter note. Having emerged as a key performer, the German ran down his contract before suffering an ACL injury and joined Bayern Munich in the summer of 2020 for £35m.

Not a bad word could be said about Silva and Guardiola paid tribute to the diminutive Spaniard, claiming the playmaker was irreplaceable. The good news about his exit was that it allowed Phil Foden to fully flourish.

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Bravo and Otamendi never quite lived up to their reputations and were replaced by better players in Ederson and Ruben Dias, joining Real Betis and Benfica respectively.

The Catalan was visibly emotional when discussing Aguero’s departure on a free transfer after 10 years of service, wishing him luck at Barcelona this summer. But the striker’s father accused Guardiola of faking his tears, insisting the pair did not have a good relationship.

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