Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is aiming to emulate his club’s rival Manchester United by winning the Premier League title, Champions League and FA Cup this season.
Pep Guardiola called Ronald Koeman to wish him a happy birthday and took advantage of the conversation to beg the boss of the Netherlands to take care of Nathan Ake.
Koeman, the Manchester City manager’s former Barcelona teammate, received a phone call from Guardiola as he celebrated his 60th birthday last Tuesday, but acknowledged that the Catalan had an ulterior motive. Ake has become a regular in City’s treble-seeking squad this season. Koeman said: “I got a call from my friend Pep on my birthday this week.
“Pep wished me a happy birthday, but very quickly he also asked me if he could watch out for Nathan Ake because he needs it, and I can understand why.
“Nathan is the absolute example of a player who has developed at the highest level. He has done very well and has become a really important player for both the Netherlands and Manchester City. I am proud of Nathan. He is very important and is a great defender now.”
Ake has made 32 appearances in all competitions for City this season, with many of those appearances coming at left-back. Guardiola has fallen short in that position after the transfer of Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal and the loan of Joao Cancelo to Bayern Munich.
Ake, who started his career at Chelsea, joined City in the summer of 2020 following Bournemouth’s relegation to the Championship. The 28-year-old struggled for minutes during his first two seasons at the Etihad, playing just 24 times in the Premier League.
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However, Ake has become a senior player for Guardiola thanks to his versatility and ability on the ball. The defender, who is a centre-back by trade, has 35 Dutch senior caps under his belt and previously represented the likes of Reading and Watford.
Guardiola recently told Sky Sports: “He (Ake) is an exceptional defender. He’s amazing from set pieces, his attention to what we need in the process, he’s really good in short space. That’s why he’s playing. It’s as simple as that”.
City are aiming to become the first English club since Manchester United to win the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in the same season. They are eight points behind league leaders Arsenal, with one game less, and face Bayern Munich and Sheffield United in the next rounds of the Champions League and FA Cup respectively.
The Netherlands, meanwhile, were beaten 4-0 in their first Euro 2024 qualifier against World Cup finalist France on Friday and will face the Gibraltar minnows on Monday. Koeman was furious with his team’s performance in Paris despite losing half his starting lineup to food poisoning from dubious chicken curry.
Liverpool striker Cody Gakpo was one of the players who fell ill. Gakpo was unable to train for three days and is still struggling to completely shake off the bug.
Koeman said: “I’ll talk to Cody on Monday. We have to see how he feels. He needs to be 100 per cent fit. He’s not strong enough at the moment, but he has one more day and one whole night before we need to decide if we play it.”