Between Pep Guardiola and the Champions League (C1), it all started with a beautiful love story: two victories, in 2009 and 2011, during his first three seasons as coach with FC Barcelona. Then the romance took a turn for the worse. For twelve years, the Spaniard has not put his hand on the Cup with the big ears. Saturday June 10, the one who is now on the Manchester City bench could be reconciled with the most prestigious competition in European football.
At the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, his team faces Inter Milan in the final. An appointment that the coach and his men approach with the costume of favorites. Because their Italian rival has not played in a Champions League final since 2010 and is the surprise guest this season. Because City have an armada of impressive players and the club is still in the running to score the second hat-trick in the history of football across the Channel (league, FA Cup and Champions League) after Manchester United in 1999. For Pep Guardiola too.
This continental title has been Manchester City’s ultimate goal since its takeover by an Emirati fund in 2008. Unlike several of his counterparts from other major teams who were sacked at the slightest poor performance, the Catalan had the opportunity to build a long-term project with the Skyblues, despite its successive disappointments in the competition.
Scientific revolution and perpetual innovation
When he landed in the north of England in 2016, Guardiola had just experienced three heartbreaking episodes in the Champions League: three eliminations in a row in the last four, at the gates of the final. “I was at Bayern Munich for three years, I won everything except the C1. It was a huge failure. I know it, I accept it”, will admit the Spaniard, in 2019, before the European quarter-final against Londoners Tottenham. But in Germany, he is already continuing on his line, refining his method.
That of a trainer who triggered a “scientific revolution”according to Thibaud Leplat, author of the biography Guardiola. Praise of style (Hugo Poche, reissued in 2021) from his first feats of arms in Barcelona. “He invented a new football paradigm, he became an absolute reference. It is a form of academicism on its own”explains the one who is also editor-in-chief of the journal After Foot. Possession of the ball, pressing at the loss of it, occupation of the opposing camp… The Spaniard imposes his ideas and renders those of the technicians trends at the time obsolete.
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