Manchester City captain Fernandinho shocked manager Pep Guardiola by saying Tuesday he planned to leave the English champions at the end of the season.
The 36-year-old former Brazil international, who has won four Premier League titles since joining City from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, revealed his intentions at a pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg away to Atletico Madrid.
Fernandinho, asked if he would like to extend his stay at the Etihad for another year, replied: “No, I want to play regularly. I will go back to Brazil. I decided with my family, which is the most important for me.”
Guardiola, alongside the midfielder at the press conference, was taken aback by his skipper’s announcement.
“Oh! I didn’t know. You give me the news,” he said. “I didn’t hear it. We will see what happens. I don’t know what will happen.”
“He is so important. I’ll ask him,” the Spaniard insisted.
Guardiola said Fernandinho had been “an incredible player for Manchester City”.
The manager added: “At the end of the season we talk, maybe it’s because of his family. I would love it. We will talk.”
– ‘Honest and spontaneous’ –
Fernandinho later took to social media to clarify his comments.
“I was 100 percent honest and spontaneous in answering that question at today’s press conference,” he wrote in a Twitter post.
“But anyone who knows me also knows that my greatest honesty is with Man City and my duties as team captain.”
English champions City still lead the Premier League by a point from Liverpool after last weekend’s 2-2 draw with the Merseysiders, who also provide their opposition in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.
“My focus is 100 percent on winning all the titles we are playing for and I will only talk about my future at the end of the season,” Fernandinho added in another Twitter post. “Let’s keep pushing.”
Fernandinho made his last start for City in a home Champions League tie against Sporting Lisbon in early March.
But Guardiola said his club captain remained an important figure at the Etihad.
“The role he plays this season – I like the people who behave behind the scenes,” he explained.
“I know what he has done, behind me, he handles many of our players and stars for the benefit of the team.
“I praise him and he was here when I arrived. Raheem (Sterling), Kevin (De Bruyne), John (Stones), a few players. We know him well, from day one to now always here.
“An incredible player for Man City. There are things nobody knows but I know exactly.”
City, yet to be crowned kings of Europe after losing last season’s Champions League final to English rivals Chelsea, will travel to Spain with a 1-0 lead from the first leg thanks to a goal from De Bruyne.
Guardiola revealed defender Ruben Dias had returned to training and would travel with the squad.
The Portugal centre-half had been sidelined since early March with a thigh injury.
“Maybe (he will play on Wednesday), I don’t know,” said Guardiola.