Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has hit back at criticism that claims his side have shown 'disrespect' in their handling of the Chinese fans and media during their pre-season tour.
This criticism was crystallised by a piece in the state-owned Xinhua Agency, which claimed players and staff had snubbed fans baying for signatures and shown 'discrimination' towards members of the local Chinese press.
Having just landed in Hong Kong for the next leg of the journey, Guardiola was asked about the claims, to which, as quoted by the Mirror, he replied: “I should say that I don't agree and also that it's false. To make a statement like this they have to know exactly what happened here in our club.
“We had an incredible time in Shanghai. We were committed to the co-operation you have to do here in China. The people from the hotel, all the people asking us to do things - we were ready to do that.
“We came here - it's a unique experience because it's not easy to come to Asia during the season. To come to Asia and experience the culture, the restaurants. It's amazing to get to know other people.
“That's why I can't understand what people are saying - maybe one journalist is a bit upset. I don't know why - but it's far away from the reality.”
Guardiola added: “So we came here 23 hours later, we travel two hours by train to play in Nanjing then back to Shanghai. Now here (in Hong Kong) and then back to Tokyo - and always with the biggest smile. We don't sleep too well during the night but even so we make good training sessions for all the guys.
"I've been impressed with my players so far and let's see for the rest of the tour. I completely disagree with the journalist - that's not the reality.
“I'm so proud of what we've done. all the marketing departments, all the people who've organised this tour. And maybe next year or in two years we are going to come back to China when the club decides we should come.
“Sooner or later we'll come back – sure.”
And, as quoted by BBC Sport, backing his boss up was Raheem Sterling, adding: "Every time we got back from training to the hotel, we embraced the fans, we signed signatures, we said our goodbyes, I thought there was a really good connection. I thought China was a great experience. You ask the boys, they all loved it."
City lost out in the final of the competition to Wolves, losing on penalties after comfortably overcoming West Ham in their first game.