Prove again. It would still be there, Pep Guardiola, at the time of approaching this Wednesday, April 28, the semi-final first leg of the Champions League against PSG. To have to demonstrate, the Manchester City coach, that he is this genius of the game that some people take to the skies when others are still reluctant to grant him so much talent?
Yes, the Catalan has yet to convince, and for that to triumph at the top of Europe, as in 2009 and 2011 with Barcelona, but this time with his English team. And thus join the very select club of the five strategists who raised the continental trophy with two different clubs (read below).
What does his pharaonic record and his eight crownings of champion in three major football countries (three in Spain, three in Germany with Bayern and two in England) matter: at barely 50 years old, Pep Guardiola has not managed to win back Europe since leaving Catalonia.
He suffered three failed tries in the semi-finals with Bayern, and four failures before the last four with Manchester City. A glass ceiling to be broken, against PSG, to show that he is not this sectarian that his detractors often criticize, locked in a game of possession and short passes that made his fortune in Barcelona.
The art of the opposite
His career reveals, in fact, more astonishing breaks than strict straight lines. From the player Guardiola first, raised to the good grain of Barça from the age of 13 and educated in the precepts of the mythical Batavian No.10 Johan Cruyff, to the baton in Catalonia for the professional debut of the young defensive midfielder Guardiola. Pep was only 21 years old and a fate all mapped out: Barcelona, forever. He was, of course, faithful to it for ten years, but, the first opposite, joined Italy in 2001, then Qatar.
Two years in the emirate, and a new zigzag: he bounced back in 2006 in Mexico, in the modest club of Dorados de Sinaloa. The goal ? Enjoy the lights of the relatively unknown Spanish scholar trainer, Juanman Lillo. Pep Guardiola is preparing to pass his master’s degrees in playing and comes to be inspired by the one of whom he will say: “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had.” Lillo rather than Cruyff? Another guardiolesque dribble. But perfectly sincere: Juanman Lillo joined him at Manchester City in June 2020, as an assistant.
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In 2007, it is the return to the fold to coach the reserve team of Barcelona, which passes with him from the fourth to the third division. He assures today that it is the title of which he is the most ” proud “, because acquired with a small team.
The rest, from 2008, resembles the highway to success. But Pep Guardiola was not content to rush to glory. Deciding to let go of the Barcelona racing car after only four years of driving is no small feat. Nobody understands besides in 2012 that he leaves to simply settle in New York with his family. He says that“There is not only football in the life”. No one wants to believe the obsessive.
“A positive madness”
Which still surprises a few months later by signing with Bayern. The rigor of the Catalan at the controls of the Bavarian machine, risk of sparks. But the association works. We discover that the coach knows how to adapt. And that is moreover all that interests him. Reaction of an emblematic Bavarian, striker Thomas Müller, to the passage of Guardiola: “Pep was always in his own world, because he was thinking all day about how to reposition these players to find the perfect formula. A positive madness. “
Taking up a new challenge is the motivation behind Guardiola’s signing to Manchester City in 2016: adapting to English football, its culture of long play and bitter duels. The genius of Guardiola is due to this flexibility. “ He is one of the few coaches who continue to innovate and take risks ”, underlined his counterpart from Marseille, André Villas-Boas, in the fall of 2020. Guardiola or permanent research. His strategic choices sometimes fall short, such as his three-way defense in August 2020 in the quarter-final lost against Lyon (1-3).
But that’s football too. Pep Guardiola has just recalled this by courageously rejecting the recent closed Super League project, then supported by his employer before the club retracts: ” It is not sport if success is guaranteed or if losing does not matter ”, he had struck the day after the announcement of the project. Because it is the game that fascinates the guy. As in front of the chessboard, he combines. The great master will never be satisfied.
In the footsteps of Carlo Ancelotti
If he won the Champions League this year, Pep Guardiola would join five other trophy-winning coaches with two different clubs: Austrian Ernst Happel (with Feyenord in 1970 and Hamburg in 1983), German Ottmar Hitzfeld (with Dortmund in 1997 and Munich in 2001), the German Jupp Heynckes (with Real Madrid in 1998 and Munich in 2013), the Portuguese José Mourinho (with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010), and the Italian Carlo Ancelotti ( with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 and Real in 2014).
The latter is for the moment the only one to have also won the European Cup as a player (in 1989 and 1990). Pep Guardiola could imitate him – in 1992, he had lifted the European Cup under the colors of FC Barcelona.