Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola may not yet have delivered the Champions League crown Manchester City crave, but four Premier League titles in five years demonstrate a period of dominance to match his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
The Catalan now has 10 league titles to his name in just 13 seasons as a senior coach across three of the toughest divisions in the world.
Few of those have been as hard-fought as City’s latest title triumph.
Guardiola’s men were pushed all the way by a Liverpool side he described as the best he has faced in his managerial career.
The Reds could still complete a treble of League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League should they see off Real Madrid in Paris on May 28.
However, just as in the engrossing title tussle between the same two clubs three years ago, City’s squeaked home by a point thanks to a dramatic fightback from 2-0 down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 on the final day.
Recognition of Guardiola’s achievements at City often comes with the caveats of the huge resources at his disposal and consistent failings to convert domestic dominance into European success since leaving Barcelona a decade ago.
“If we don’t win it in my final period here, I will be a failure,” Guardiola said last month, speaking about his Champions League record.
But his ability to construct sides capable of rising to the relentless demands of winning a title over 38 games is unmatched.
The 51-year-old has laughed off suggestions he could match former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson’s longevity.
But only Ferguson’s haul of 13 Premier League titles in 27 years at Old Trafford comes close to matching Guardiola’s strike rate in Europe’s toughest leagues.
“Pep is the best coach in the world,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp last month. “I think we would all agree on that and it might be a coincidence that it didn’t work out in the Champions League so far.
“If anybody doubts him, I have no idea how that could happen.”
– City infrastructure –
City’s long-term strategy of building the infrastructure of the club around Guardiola, even prior to his arrival, has been thoroughly vindicated.
Director of football Txiki Begiristain and CEO Ferran Soriano were plucked from Barcelona with the aim of luring Guardiola to England.
Guardiola was burned out by the demands of the job at Barcelona after four seasons and cut short his time at Bayern after three years.
By contrast, he has stayed at City now for six seasons and will be around for at least a seventh.
Backed by the state wealth of Abu Dhabi, Guardiola has been given the money to assemble one of the most expensive squads in football history.
However, there are limits to that spending power as City found out last year.
Tottenham would not let Harry Kane go despite City’s interest and the England captain’s desire to leave.
The English champions have already swooped to fulfil their need for a striker for next season by beating off competition from other leading clubs in Europe to sign Erling Haaland.
But Guardiola had to make do without a natural finisher this season and still conjured up the top-scoring team in the Premier League.
Most importantly, he also held onto the trophy he values more than any other.
“I would say it’s more difficult,” said Guardiola on Premier League glory compared with winning the Champions League.
“There’s a lot of weeks and games, struggles with injuries, good and bad moments with different situations, tough opponents.
“It’s satisfying because it’s every day. When you fight for the Premier League and have success right at the end, it gives you a sense that you enjoy a lot. We are happier in our lives when you win.”
The fear for the rest of the Premier League is that with Haaland’s arrival, City look likely to get even stronger.
After three league titles at Barca and Bayern, Guardiola has a fourth in England and his grip on the Premier League is only getting tighter.
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