Pep Guardiola was irritated on his return to Barcelona by suggestions he tried to poach the Nou Camp’s finest for Manchester City this summer.
But the former Barca boss claimed it was not beyond the realms of possibility that superstar Lionel Messi could play in England one day.
Guardiola, who won 14 trophies in four glorious years in charge of Barca, was speaking at the Nou Camp ahead of City’s Champions League clash tonight with the Catalan side.
The 45-year-old has already signed goalkeeper Claudio Bravo from his old club since arriving at City and was also interested in fellow stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
But he insisted that is as far as his interest in former Barca players went when the subject was raised by a local journalist.
Guardiola, speaking through an interpretor, said: “If you are talking about this summer, I never called Messi. I never called Neymar, Luis Suarez, Busquets, Iniesta – I didn’t call anybody.
“As for Ter Stegen I knew that he wanted to play all the time. We got in touch. He wasn’t happy with his situation.
“We needed a goalkeeper like Claudio or Ter Stegen. Claudio came and Ter Stegen decided to stay.
“If I ever called a player playing in any other club it would be in a special situation of not playing, and it would be my right to. It is okay, I could have phoned someone if he was not playing, but I never called Leo Messi.
“In the case of Leo I really wish him to play here and finish his career here – play here for a long time.”
City go into the game second in Group C, behind Barca, after being held to a draw by Celtic in their last outing.
Sergio Aguero is expected to return to City’s starting line-up.
The striker came off the bench in the Premier League draw with Everton, as did captain Vincent Kompany, whose chances of coming into the first XI this time around appear less clear.
Arsenal have no fresh injury concerns ahead of their Group A clash at home to Ludogorets.
Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey both trained yesterday but manager Arsene Wenger wants to give them longer to recover from respective toe and hamstring injuries.
David Ospina will replace Petr Cech in goal as he has done in the previous two Champions League outings while Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck (both knee) are still absent.