The Man Himself/Opinions
Tortured tactical genius or pompous pampered fraud? A mix of both? Pep Guardiola has been called a lot of names in recent years despite delivering major success on a domestic level. He has won everything there is to win in the game. UEFA Champions League titles, league titles, domestic club titles, he has cleared every one of them. However, after over 12 years of management, people continue to doubt his coaching pedigree. “He has never coached a small club”, why would anyone leave a glorious job leading a world-class firm to go struggle to revive a failing firm just to prove his success to anyone in the business world.
Pep is a world-class coach and because of that world-class clubs demand his services. Another criticism often leveled against him is that he has not won the UEFA Champions League outside of his first years at Barcelona, another redundant argument seeing as most world-class coaches only have it twice on their CV.
Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson have each won it two times. That is the echelon of football management royalty that he belongs to. However, the last two clubs that have hired him have had one thing in mind. Win us the UEFA Champions League trophy! And despite the numerous domestic accolades, they want more from him. It did not happen at Bayern Munich and so far, it has not happened at Manchester City. The Spaniard has failed to guide any of his teams to the grand prize in European football, the UEFA Champions League title after his remarkable and historic seasons at Barcelona.
The first year was arguably the best first year a coach can ask for. He won the sextuple in 2009 becoming the only manager in football history to achieve such a feat. That was until Hansi Flick did it with his fierce Bayern Munich team fast-forward 11 years later in 2020.
A lot of opinions, pundits, and fans alike have stated that perhaps the Spaniard is missing his x-factor in Lionel Messi with whom he dominated Spain and indeed world football. Does Pep need Messi? Does Messi need Pep? It would be safe to say that neither of them is in the best of situations with their respective clubs. Despite lifting domestic trophies this season, both were knocked out of the UCL. Barca in the Round of 16 and City in the final to familiar foes Chelsea.
Manchester City Get to The Final, Vindication?
After many trials, he would arrive in a UEFA Champions League final where his side would face Chelsea again in the Champions League, 9 years after they sent his Barcelona side crashing out of the tournament on their way to pick up the trophy for the first time. Guardiola had not gotten past the semi-final stage after winning the competition in 2011 despite being in charge of European giants like Bayern Munich and now Manchester City. This was City’s first UEFA Champions League final and a chance to lift the trophy for the first time in the club’s history and cement their status as one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Who better to lead the club than the man who has won 2 UCL finals in 2 appearances? Pep would have felt this was the perfect opportunity to silence the critics and doubters but it was not to be.
Again Chelsea got the better of Guardiola. Kai Havertz provided a bit of deja vu for Pep by rounding Ederson and scoring the winning goal 3 minutes before halftime.
What Next For Pep Guardiola & Manchester City?
Guardiola’s failure on the grand stage has been attributed to several things. A penchant for overthinking the small things, Thomas Tuchel simply outfoxing Pep, and even curses from the stalls of Yaya Toure and his comical agent Dmitri Seluk. Pep Guardiola is famous for over-tacticalizing straightforward games, his analysis of the Chelsea team days before the final making for meme-worthy content despite how brilliant and insightful it is. His colleague on the day is equally famous for tactical complications so how come? Maybe it is because Tuchel has created a cohesive monster strong enough to topple Pep on the big stage. Maybe that. The voodoo option is not worth giving a second thought.
So what next? Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are targeting Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, Sporting Lisbon’s Nuno Mendes, and Tottenham’s Harry Kane as they look to freshen up their squad. Critics point to the funding that he is enjoying and how he requires money to perform at the top level. Well, yeah you kind of do.
Even the famous Leicester City story starts with a big investment. Billionaire Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – bless his resting soul – invested 180 million Pounds in the Foxes to help them to a “top 5 finish”. If you want to create a competitive side, you have to spend. When you are not spending it on signing good players, you are spending it to find great scouts to find these players when they are cheaper, and great coaches to train/develop them. Before Leicester City,
Claudio Ranieri had managed Chelsea, Juventus, AS Roma, Inter Milan, Parma, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Napoli, Fiorentina, the Greek National Team. What do you think was the reason for such a great coach slumming it with lowly Leicester? Funding. Liverpool were a good team but the funds made available from the sale of Philippe Coutinho made it possible for them to take that push to a world-class level. The addition of Alisson Becker and Virgil Van Dijk accelerated that push. Even Antonio Conte’s Serie A win this season that was billed as the David vs Goliath battle was also aided by over 200 million in transfer signings.
Guardiola will spend and give it another go, that is what is next. He would love to win the English Premier League next season but his focus will be on the UEFA Champions League. It is not now or never but it is as close as it can get to believe that sentiment. A world-class striker will make them a more fearsome opposition, a stronger one. Whether that will help them make the final leap to the title is down to fate. And probably not spells cast by African shamans.