Paul Jewell came close to signing Barca boss Pep Guardiola

PAUL Jewell has revealed how close he came to signing Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.

The Ipswich Town manager was in charge of Wigan Athletic in the Premier League when he was offered the then-32-year-old free agent.

Despite the relatively unfashionable status of the Latics, Guardiola quickly won Jewell over by knowing all about Wigan’s players and formation.

But with Jewell expecting the 39-cap Spanish international to put pen-to-paper, the move was scuppered when Guardiola received a “mind-blowing offer” to play for Al-Ahli in Qatar.

But the experience clearly impressed the Town boss who is tipping Barcelona to recover from a 1-0 first-leg setback and beat Chelsea in tonight’s Champions League semi-final.

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“I got a call from Guardiola’s agent and he gave me Pep’s number so I rang him and left a message,” Jewell said. “Quite remarkably, five minutes later he rang me back. He knew all about Wigan, all about our players – I was really impressed.

“We had a terrific conversation and he told me he would like to come and play in the Premier League. His wages weren’t extortionate and he was all set to come when his agent called me a couple of days later saying Pep had received a mind-blowing offer from Qatar. So it was Qatar or Wigan.”

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Even though their exchange was brief, Jewell heard things that made him think Guardiola, a Champions League winner as player and then manager of Barca, was destined for great things.

Jewell said: “The impressive thing was he knew all about Wigan, even what formation we played. I just thought it showed great football knowledge throughout Europe.

“I like the way he conducts himself now. He is very low key but he has done a brilliant job with Barcelona.”

And Jewell is tipping Barcelona to bounce back from Saturday’s El Clasico defeat to Real Madrid and beat Chelsea in tonight’s second leg.

He added: “It would be nice for English football if Chelsea win but Barcelona will take some stopping. Chelsea did great and defended with their lives but the Nou Camp is a completely different situation. Barcelona are a cut above everything else.”

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