Pep Guardiola has thanked his Manchester City players for convincing Kyle Walker to stay at the club after summer interest from Bayern Munich.
The right-back signed a two-year extension to his City contract this week, keeping him at the club until 2026. In a window in which Ilkay Gündogan, Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte left, it was important to maintain Walker’s experience within the squad. The England defender has captained City in recent weeks and is set to have the armband for the trip to West Ham on Saturday.
“When Bayern Munich call you it is a big, big, big opportunity, there are no doubts about that,” Guardiola said. “We did our job to try to convince him to stay and the benefits to stay, and I promise you, because it was not just me, the club did too but especially it was his mates. They made a lot of meetings, saying ‘Kyle, you cannot leave’, and they made him feel how much he is beloved by everyone and in the end he decided to stay.”
Guardiola will return to the dugout at the London Stadium after missing the past two matches while he recovered from back surgery. “He has an incredible heart,” Guardiola said of Walker. “When players are injured he calls – he called me twice. [He] takes care of staff. This counts a lot, people say how good the players are, the reason why we have success is we have quality humans. This is the reason why.”
Guardiola believes Walker is getting better on the ball each year, proved by his first England goal against Ukraine last week. Another who impressed on England duty was Kalvin Phillips, who was handed a rare start against Scotland in midweek. The midfielder was offered the chance to leave City in the summer but wanted to fight for his place under Guardiola, although he has played for only six minutes in the Premier League this season.
“First I want to say I’m really pleased for the game he played because he is an exceptional guy and I love working with these kind of people,” Guardiola said. “He has not had much minutes in the past, I don’t know what is going to happen but it is important for him, and for me as well, to have this good performance. He can improve, because the dynamics he came from was completely the opposite. He stayed with us and the players we have in the squad that are now injured, it is important that he is ready.”