Guardiola… ended scores with the “Bad Cup” that lasted 12 years
Pep Guardiola finally did it away from Barcelona! The Spanish coach dismantled the jinx that had haunted him since his departure from the Catalan giants 12 years ago, and led Manchester City to its first title in the European Champions League, by defeating Italian Inter 1-0 in the Istanbul final on Saturday.
After the club’s Emirati owners brought him in 2016, Guardiola succeeded in leading City to equal the most prominent achievement of English football by achieving the League, Cup and Champions League treble, similar to his neighbor and rival Manchester United in 1999.
For the Spaniard, it was a personal reckoning with a contest that eluded him for 12 years.
The Catalan is considered the most prominent coach of his generation, with 11 titles in the domestic league during the 14 seasons he spent at the helm of Barcelona, Spain, Bayern Munich and City.
But since his second continental crown in 2011, during his first three years with Barcelona, Guardiola has suffered a series of defeats in the advanced roles, some of which were painful.
After a dramatic fall to Chelsea in the semi-finals, in his last year at the Camp Nou, Pep’s career stopped three times in the last square with Bayern Munich.
With City, he needed five attempts to pass the quarter-finals, then reached the final, where he fell in the last exam against Chelsea two years ago, to continue the club’s search for a first title in the main continental championship.
He faced a miraculous comeback from Real Madrid last season, so he was shocked to bid farewell to the semi-finals.
“He is a genius”: After Guardiola’s team lost in the 2021 final, the Catalan was accused of “overthinking” and complicating the task of his talent-rich squad.
But his tactical sense helped him compensate for a volatile start to the season and led the team to achieve a historic achievement for the blue section of Manchester.
Guardiola publicly questioned last January how hungry his players were to continue winning titles, while his lethal Norwegian striker Erling Haaland was adapting, on his way to scoring 52 goals in various competitions.
Many questions were raised about the reason for abandoning the Portuguese, Joao Cancelo, during the winter transfer period, which reduced the resources of “Citizens” in the full-back position.
But Guardiola had a plan to switch to a three-man defense, and he put the heart of defense John Stones in the midfield that Cancelo occupied in the past seasons, and the team reaped great results.
“He’s a genius,” offensive midfielder Jack Grealish said, after Saturday’s coronation, of his coach.
He added: «I went to see him to say thank you, you are the one who made all this possible for me, you gave me a lot of confidence after buying me at a high price (115 million euros) even last year when I was playing very poorly, he kept beside me talking to me, and this The year gave me that space to play, so I wanted to thank him.
Stability was key to City’s run to the Istanbul final.
The same ten players participated in the starting line-up in the last five semi-final Champions League matches (Kyle Walker missed the final due to injury), while the likes of the Algerian offensive front players, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Argentine world champion Julian Alvares, remained on the bench.
After crushing Bayern 4-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, City took revenge on defending champions Madrid 4-0 in the semi-final second leg in front of ecstatic fans at the Etihad Stadium.
On the domestic level, City imposed itself as a striking force, by winning the league title five times in the last six seasons.
The need for coronation: Nevertheless, Guardiola acknowledged that the Champions League title, which his team had been chasing after for years, would raise it to a different position.
He told the European Union (Wifa) website, “Many clubs have changed their projects and ideas because they are unable to win this competition, and other clubs have become major after their coronation.”
The 52-year-old coach continued, “Even if I do not share this opinion, but I understand that everything we made in those years, which was great and very good, will carry a different meaning to others if we win this competition.”
And the former midfielder added, “If we are not crowned, the rest of the things will bear less meaning. This is not fair in a way, but we have to accept it .. We have to win the Champions League, this cannot be avoided.
And the coronation of the Champions League completed the Guardiola project that City brought in to achieve it seven years ago, and also silenced doubters about the eligibility of his presence among the great coaches in the history of the game.