There won’t be too many people who will disagree with the notion that Pep Guardiola has been the finest football coach of his generation. As a disciple of the peerless Johan Cruyff, Guardiola’s ability as a player, combined with an incessant thirst for knowledge, was always going to see the Catalan end up in the dugout.
After dipping his toes in the water with Barca B, Guardiola was thrust into the top job at the Camp Nou. Famously it was ahead of the more established and successful Jose Mourinho.
Things couldn’t really have gone any better. Guardiola landed a sextuple in his first full calendar year, not done before or since, and 14 trophies in a four-year tenure. It was also under Pep that Lionel Messi produced his most mesmerising numbers in front of goal.
Bayern Munich were next on Guardiola’s managerial journey and, to the surprise of nobody, the coach carried on in Bavaria where he’d left off in Catalonia. Guardiola landed seven trophies in three years, included two domestic doubles. With his work done in the Bundesliga, it was time to try his luck elsewhere.
It had been rumoured as far back as his spell at Barca that Guardiola would eventually end up at Man City. This was mainly due to the fact that the people who were instrumental in getting him the Barca job had moved on to the blue half of Manchester.
His first season in the Premier League was a real baptism of fire. Indeed, the 2016/17 campaign was the only season to date where Guardiola has failed to win a single trophy. However, that only stoked the fire burning inside of him further.
A Carabao Cup triumph in February 2018 was just the aperitif to a record-breaking Premier League title win. Finishing with 100 points in the English top flight hadn’t been done in the Premier League era. The way in which City systematically dismantled virtually every opponent put in front of them was a joy to behold.
Even rival fans were impressed with his work. Especially with the consistency and scale of detail that went into making Guardiola’s players virtually unbeatable. Certainly the top flight hadn’t seen anything like it for a long time.
Another league success and another huge points total followed. However, City were pushed all the way by Liverpool, who finished just a point behind City’s 98. The EFL Cup was also retained after a penalty shoot-out and Watford were completely swept aside in the FA Cup final where they lost 6-0.
In doing so, City became the first ever men’s team to win a domestic treble. You could even argue that they landed a tenuous quadruple if you include their Community Shield success as well.
The one trophy that has continues to elude Guardiola, both at Bayern and City, is the Champions League. Having won it twice with Barcelona, it has been a source of frustration ever since.
Bayern have won it previously, including in the season before Guardiola joined them. However City, to date, still haven’t got their name on the trophy that they desire more than any other.
It remains Guardiola’s biggest managerial bugbear. With his City team going off the boil in dramatic fashion this season, Liverpool look as though they’re finally on the cusp of a Premier League title. It begs the question as to whether they have enough about them to go all the way this year, particularly considering a tricky Champions League Round of 16 tie against Real Madrid.
Though winning the trophy again is by no means the be all and end all for Pep, one of the main reasons he was brought to the club was to land Europe’s biggest prize. What will concern him much more is whether there’s a dilution of his influence over the first team players.
Guardiola is methodical and detailed beyond belief. Indeed, anyone that has played for him has always said in interviews that he leaves them nothing to worry about on the pitch. Everyone knows their role precisely which is as near to freedom as a professional player can have.
If Guardiola feels that he hasn’t got the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne eating out of the palm of his hand anyore, there’s reason to believe he’ll up sticks and move on to his next adventure sooner rather than later. A fourth term would be the most Guardiola would stay for in any event, so the next few months could be the most crucial of City’s recent renaissance.