No matter what side you’ve found yourself on in regards to Pep Guardiola, all fans can agree on this; He is one of the greatest managers the game has ever seen. Guardiola, though at the highest level, struggled during his player career. Such is true for many of the greats, including ex-Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal, Rafa Benitez, Arsene Wenger, and Portugese rival, Jose Mourinho. Judging by the list, being an average player is the secret sauce for being a world class manager (go figure). Guardiola found himself in the ranks of Barcelona management, and after a year managing the “B” team, found himself on the sidelines managing what would argue one of the greatest teams to ever be fielded. Guardiola didn’t stop with the Spanish giants, though, and quickly moved on to Germany where he dominated the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, before moving on to his current English kingdom, Manchester City.
Guardiola is, statistically speaking, one of the most successful champions league managers to ever grace the sideline. 93 wins in 148 Champions League matches puts him in the ranks of aforementioned Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez, and the king, Alex Ferguson. Two champions league wins at Barcelona were surely a sign of what some would predict to be an unstoppable career; boy were they wrong.
With a 6-5 loss on aggregate to Spanish giants Real Madrid, Guardiola secured another early exit with his $1.4 billion squad of superstars. While Guardiola has dominated league play and domestic cups during his world-class managing career, why does Guardiola struggle to bring home a European championship? Why can’t the maestro write the perfect tune to bring home the cup to Manchester?
Guardiola himself has stated he was not hired on the basis of “solely winning the champions league”, but stresses the importance of being a team that can compete in all competitions until the very end. This is evident in his dominance in league play, winning titles in three of the last four seasons at City, with a fourth on the horizon. Certainly, Guardiola is happy with the premier league title, domestic cup titles, and his past titles at Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively, but deep down, Guardiola must yearn for the elusive Champions League that has haunted him since his last win with Barcelona in the 2010/2011 campaign. Modern football presents challenges; a never-ending chase for one more trophy, one more title, one more record. Guardiola has seen this chase unfold in the form of players at City. Pep has spent almost twice the amount of time at Manchester City as he did at his two previous clubs, and has run through twice the amount of players. Using only 57 players at Barcelona, and 44 players at Munich, Guardiola has used a whopping 70 players at City, with a suspected signing of the Norwegian star Erling Haaland on the horizon. Maybe what Pep lacks is consistency. Guardiola is notorious for his lack of fear when it comes to rotating line-ups and using players in unconventional ways to combat the modern game. But if you had a bench that could beat half the league, wouldn’t you do the same? If money can’t buy titles, what will it take for City to finally capture the ultimate prize, the most coveted title in European football? I guess, like years before, we’ll have to wait until next year to find out – or meet me back here in a year to talk about who they’re signing to try and win.