Can Pep Guardiola Win the Champions League Again?

reuters

Aarran Summers

A two-time winner of the Champions League, it’s been nine years since Pep Guardiola last lifted the trophy. Is time running out for the Spaniard?

David Villa has just scored Barcelona’s third goal of the 2011 Champions League Final. Pep Guardiola was dancing on the touchline while a dejected Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, wondered how on earth anyone could beat a Guardiola team in Europe. The full-time whistle blew and the popular Spaniard had done it again: champions of Europe for a second time. This was just the start of Guardiola’s love affair with Europe’s premier competition. 

Or so we believed. It was anything but. Nine years on, Guardiola’s wait for a third title continues. His achievements at Barcelona have not been replicated, not even he was coaching the world’s best players at Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Speculation is rife as to why this is the case. The Lionel Messi factor is one major talking point; Guardiola agrees with critics that he only won the competition because of the players he was working with. 

While Guardiola’s tiki-taka style suited Barcelona, his philosophy at Bayern and Manchester City has worked wonders in domestic competitions but not in Europe. 

Despite the barren spell, his captain at Barcelona, Carles Puyol, has leapt to his defence and said that his former coach will win the title again soon. On the other hand, Ruud Gullit revealed on beIN SPORTS in April 2018, that without Messi, Guardiola will probably not win the title again.

When Guardiola joined Bayern in 2013, they were European champions and winners of an unprecedented quadruple in German football. A great chance for Guardiola to continue Jupp Heynckes legacy was thwarted by Real Madrid in the semi-finals. When Guardiola signed for Manchester City, he joined a team with very little European experience but plenty of big-name players.

City  tend go close every year, but with each passing season, the pressure mounts; some would say deservedly so, particularly with the amount of money spent in the transfer market. But now, with a potential European ban looming over City, one could be forgiven for thinking that Guardiola’s opportunity to win European silverware for the Citizens has passed and that his role at the Etihad Stadium is drawing to a close.

Guardiola alluded that he might be sacked if City fail to win the competition this season. His contract finishes at the end of next season, and if Manchester City fail in their bid to overturn their ban, it looks increasingly unlikely that Spaniard will be in charge of the club in 2023. If he does, then he will have stayed longer at City then he did at Bayern and Barcelona.

Quite simply, time is running out. This season represents his best chance, but with the Coronavirus pandemic causing postponements across the sporting world, there is a fear that the Champions League may not return this season. City’s stunning victory over Real Madrid in the round of 16, first leg tie, proved they were capable of turning adversity into triumph. It is a result that could now be expunged.

If the competition continues, City will continue as underdogs, but the political fight with UEFA behind the scenes may actually serve as a catalyst for a serious shot at winning their maiden continental title. 

Guardiola says he will be regarded as a failure at Manchester City if he fails to win the Champions League. Where will he go next? He is yet to coach in Italy or France. Perhaps he could one day return to Spain. However, what is clear, as Guardiola and many others have commented, is that he may need a magician similar to Messi, to help him achieve another Champions League triumph.