For Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, tomorrow’s Champions League quarterfinals clash with former employer Bayern Munich signals another attempt for the veteran Spanish tactician to lift the second-ever European trophy in City’s history.
Not since the Cup Winners’ Cup triumph in 1969-70 has a City side conquered Europe on some level, and despite the club’s financial backing and dominance on the Premier League front under their Catalan headmaster, Guardiola has failed to achieve the one trophy that the club is truly after under his command.
A loss to domestic rivals Chelsea in the 2020-21 final under Thomas Tuchel presents a chance for Guardiola to get one over on the man who stood in his way two seasons ago after Tuchel replaced Julian Nagelsmann at Säbener Straße, but the broader context surrounding Pep comes by way of his abject failure on the European front across what is otherwise an illustrious managerial career.
After winning the competition twice with Barcelona in 2008-09 and 2010-11, Pep has reached the final just once while with Bayern and City, while crashing out during either the quarterfinals or semi-finals a combined eight times irrespective of the stature and talent pools that both clubs have enjoyed during his respective tenures.
In response, Guardiola mentioned NBA legend Michael Jordan during his pre-match press conference earlier today and the notion that across the 15-year career of the global phenomenon, Jordan had won the NBA finals only six times, showing that even the best do not win it all at every point of asking.
It was a bizarre comparison by Guardiola, especially given the notion that Jordon is only one man, despite his otherwordly ability on a basketball court, who has not enjoyed having access to billions of dollars to build a team to his exact specifications to win the greatest prizes his sport had on offer, only to still ultimately fall short more often than not.
Additionally, Jordan not only brought home the NBA title in each of his six appearances in the finals, but he also shone in the biggest moments in each, winning the final’s MVP each time.
No, Jordan did not bring home an NBA finals trophy fifteen times, but to compare the success of a player to the success of a manager is a stretch argument at best, especially when you have unquestionably had your way in trying to build success.
For a manager in Pep that so often struggles to self-reflect when goals are not met, it very much appears that the Spanish manager has already lined up what he deems as acceptable rhetoric should City fall to Bayern across two legs.