Home » Football, final of the Champions League: Pep Guardiola – becoming a pragmatist of a football aesthete

Football, final of the Champions League: Pep Guardiola – becoming a pragmatist of a football aesthete

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Football, final of the Champions League: Pep Guardiola – becoming a pragmatist of a football aesthete

Status: 06/10/2023 11:56 p.m

In his seventh season, Pep Guardiola won the Champions League with Manchester City on Saturday (06/10/2023). This time he has dispensed with tactical experiments. About a football aesthete who can also be pragmatic.

Pep Guardiola had almost finished his lap across the lawn in the final stadium in Istanbul when Ilkay Gündogan suddenly stood in front of him. It was a matter of seconds before Guardiola and Gundogan, Manchester City coach and captain, were in each other’s arms, united in a moment of joy. For City it was the first title in the Champions League, it was this title that the club had been missing. He also completes the work of coach Guardiola.

  • Champions League, Finale
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  • Ticker to read – Manchester City vs Inter Milan
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At some point Guardiola, 52, will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time, there is hardly anyone who has shaped football like he has. Guardiola, 52, was the coach when FC Barcelona showed how beautiful football can be. And how successful, twice he won the Champions League with “Barca”. Guardiola also played decent football at Bayern, and they celebrated a few titles together. But Bayern have always won the Champions League when the coach wasn’t called Guardiola.

Guardiola as a pragmatist – the lessons of a defeat

Guardiola had won thirteen titles with Manchester City from 2016 to the final, only they did not win the Champions League. Once, in the 2020/21 season, they came close but lost to Chelsea in the final. It was a defeat that changed people’s image of Guardiola. He was no longer the coach whose ideas were revolutionary, hardly anyone remembered how he had pulled Lionel Messi from the outside into the center of attack and thus invented the false nine. There were now voices who considered his ideas counterproductive.

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“Why did you screw it up again, Pep?”, headlined the “Daily Mail” the day after the lost final. It was of course a nod to the tactics Guardiola had chosen. He had taken the six Rodri out of the team and played without a real striker, but with six attacking midfielders. The plan didn’t work out.

In the days before the final against Inter Milan, Guardiola was often asked about the pressure. He said there’s always pressure as a Manchester City manager. He can handle it. Guardiola also said: “We have to win the Champions League.” They did it, also because Guardiola, who loves beautiful football so much, has recently sometimes played the pragmatist. Because he didn’t move away from it in the final either.

The goal is made by Rodri, of all people

Inter Milan were equal opponents that night, often only a few meters between their five-man chain and midfield. Man City’s technicians were sometimes seen playing long balls, they rarely created chances – and if they did appear dangerously in front of the goal, even Erling Haaland closed in a way that you don’t often see from him. They also had the ball more often at City in many games, they played nice football there.

And yet there was that one moment for football aesthetes: It was 68 minutes when Manuel Akanji found a gap in Inter’s defense with a precise pass, when Bernardo Silva then dribbled to the baseline and then put it back. When Rodri stood in the back and shot into the corner from 14 meters to the right. Rodri of all people, the clock from Guardiola’s grace. And the man whom Guardiola surprisingly benched in the final two years earlier.

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