Mark Keohane, writing for the Cape Times and IOL Sport, reflects on Pep Guardiola’s impact on Manchester City and English football as a whole.
On the eve of Manchester City’s quarter-final second leg match against Dortmund, Pep Guardiola declared that a failure for the club to win Europe’s most coveted title under his management would define his tenure at the club.
This was modesty, not refined, but misplaced.
Pep’s already been the greatest influence as a manager in City’s history and no foreign coach has made as big an impact on the English game. More accurately, make that no coach, foreign or British.
Naturally, Guardiola judges his value on trophies. He did as a 14 year old, when he declared he would win 30 of the biggest trophies as a professional manager, and at just 50 years-old, he has done just that.
Winning big trophies has been the story of his managerial career at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City and, in 13 seasons, he has won in excess of 30 big ones, with a league treble at Barcelona, a league treble at Bayern and a pending league treble at City confirmation that his impact transcends a first season immediacy.
He also won two Champions Leagues titles with Barcelona.
This year, Guardiola’s City team are positioned to win the Champions League, the Premier League and the League Cup, now called the Carabao Cup.
For the record: City will win the league for the third time in four seasons, are in the final of the Carabao Cup and the last four of the Champions league.
To dismiss Guardiola’s value to City based on the possibility of a Champions League play-off knockout defeat would be insane, as would the view of anyone who agreed with Pep on this particular perceived personal failure.
I reckon Pep said that just to get the likes of you and me to pay tribute to the glorious trail he has walked and continues to walk since arriving in Manchester.
Several years ago, Manchester United’s iconic Sir Alex Ferguson said that City could buy the best players in the world and win trophies with these imports but they would still never be a team and that they would never have the Manchester spirit of United.
Not only has Guardiola bought the best players and won trophies, he has turned them into a team in which these international ‘all sorts’ play for the club, the badge, their supporters and are constantly striving to create more history for a club that had won very little pre the Guardiola era.
The ‘very little’ is comparative to the historic achievements of United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.
The victories have been consistent for Pep’s City, just like they were for Pep’s Barcelona and for Pep’s Bayern. Guardiola, since taking over as City boss in July, 2016, has a 73.85 winning percentage. He won 72.4% with Barcelona and 75.1% with Bayern.
To give context to these incredible numbers, he has a career percentage win of 73.78% over 13 seasons, with 30-plus major trophies as reward.
But it isn’t just the trophies that have defined Guardiola at Manchester City; it is his playing philosophy and how it has transformed the thinking of managers within the English game.
Former England striker-turned media analyst Gary Lineker told his millions of social media followers that Guardiola’s influence on the English game was greater than Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wengner.
‘I will say it for him. He’s had the most positive influence of anyone, ever on our game,’ tweeted Lineker. ‘Total respect for Sir Alex’s achievements and, of course, he’s the most successful, but that’s an entirely different thing. Guardiola has changed the way we play and think about the game … from our obsession with direct play to total football … and they said it couldn’t be done.’
Guardiola’s City, since 2016, have rewritten nearly every domestic record.
They scored 100 goals and 106 points in the first Pep Premier League winning campaign, and they did it playing as if they were Barcelona.
And this is why Lineker, the scorer of 48 goals for England, bows to Guardiola.
‘Pep’s unique style of play has been replicated up and down the country … it is like every team, even in the lower leagues, is passing it around at times, like peak Barcelona.’