Twelve years after winning his second Champions League as coach of Futbol Club Barcelona, Pep Guardiola has finally been able to win the third trophy that had resisted him for so long, first at Bayern and in recent years at Manchester City. Football was in debt to the genius from Santpedor, who has achieved something unique: for the last fifteen years the teams he has coached have always played the best football on the continent. He thus achieves his title number 35 in a 14-year management career, just 14 behind the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, who won 49 trophies, although it took him almost four decades, 39 years. Guardiola, capable of breaking all the records that are before him, will once again be under pressure to overtake Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who has four Champions League titles and is also aiming for a fifth.
But whether he succeeds or not, that is mostly just a matter of the sporting record, not about the contribution he has made to the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet. In this aspect, Pep has no possible rival. He is at the summit without any doubt and it is only pettiness and envy that causes some to deny that. Guardiola is a true bête noir for a varied range of commentators in the Spanish capital, who have been able to place a meritorious and talented player like Rodrigo - who formerly played for Vila-real and Atlético Madrid - on the front pages this Sunday, above the coach, just to avoid giving Guardiola the recognition he deserves.
Guardiola has revolutionized football, placing Manchester City among the hallowed ranks of clubs who have made history, and has been able to assemble a star-studded cast into a cohesive squad. It is clear that it has cost money, a lot of money. But those who criticize him for going to the chequebook to create a team do not know - or pretend to ignore - what is done by other teams in the Premier League - Chelsea, Manchester United and Newcastle, plus European giants Paris Saint Germain, Real Madrid and Futbol Club Barcelona, which in 2022 spent 122 million. In fact, in the last decade the club that has spent the most money on signings has been United, with £1.1 billion, and if we look at the last 20 years, it has been Chelsea. It is clear that money helps build great squads, that is indisputable, but the 17 titles won with City, including seven Premier League titles - and five over the last six seasons - should put to bed any debate.
Barcelona fans have the memory of Guardiola as one of our own. As with Lionel Messi and the late Johan Cruyff. Neither Pep nor Leo are at the club now due to various circumstances and both are missed. Messi's case is, despite the misfortune, more understandable, because there is a combination of the club's financial situation, management of a clan that is certainly unique and exorbitant financial proposals to go to Miami - where he has ended up landing - or to Saudi Arabia, where reaching an agreement was made difficult, and the Barcelona option ended up being little more than a dream. But the case of Pep Guardiola is very different. The coach from the Catalan town of Santpedor would still be at the club if he had been left to do the job, if he had been given the absolute trust that he did not have from the board and if he had had the necessary authority in all the departments of the club.
It did just the opposite. His freedom to plan squads was curtailed and little by little he was invited to leave. This mistake has determined the recent history of the club and is among the explanations for why Futbol Club Barcelona has not won the Champions League since 2015, despite the fact that until 2021 Messi was also among its players. Mistakes are paid for, and making life impossible for Guardiola is among the most serious of those made by a club that still lives on those memories.