When the aristocracy in Abu Dhabi appointed Pep Guardiola as the manager of Manchester City in February 2016, you suspect they’d have been rather irked if you’d have told them that, seven years down the line, they’d have afforded the Spaniard $1 billion to spend on new players and still not won the Champions League.
Perhaps that drought will end in 2023, but if they can’t get their hands on the trophy, it will have to be chalked up as another failure of the Pep dynasty in Manchester – you wonder how much more time he’d be given to rectify the situation.
With just one final appearance in the past six seasons, Manchester City’s record on the continent under Pep Guardiola has to be described as mediocre at best, relative to their spending power.
They are the favorites in the Champions League betting to win the 2022/23 edition at odds of -150, but they still have to get past Real Madrid (+350) in the semi-finals.
Whoever wins what should be an epic two-legged encounter would then be a heavy favorite against either of the Milan clubs, AC or Inter.
However, the football odds for the Champions League (prior to a ball being kicked) had City installed as the market principle anyway, so they have done nothing but conform to expectations thus far.
The concern for their supporters might be that on big European nights in the past, Guardiola has been tactically outclassed by his opposite number.
That was the case when Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dumped them out of the UCL in 2018, when Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid ran them into the ground in 2022, and, a year prior, when Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea upset the odds in Portugal.
January 2021: Chelsea appoint Thomas Tuchel
◉ May 2021: Chelsea win the Champions League
◉ August 2021: Chelsea win the UEFA Super Cup
— Squawka (@Squawka) January 6, 2022
How should the success of a football manager be defined? Pep will always draw plaudits for the stylish way in which his teams play the beautiful game, and for some fans that alone is success enough – particularly when they are parting with their hard-earned money to watch the action live.
But in football, is success at the elite level not defined by silverware? And if it is, will Guardiola’s time at Manchester City be considered a failure if his players don’t hoist the Champions League trophy in June?
If City’s cash-rich owners instead had domination of English football in mind when appointing Pep as head coach, the record books confirm they have enjoyed a fine return on their investment.
In his first six completed seasons, Guardiola has guided the Manchester club to four Premier League titles, a quartet of League Cup triumphs, and an FA Cup – that is domination by anybody’s definition of the word.
Many even consider Guardiola to be one of the best managers to grace the Premier League.
In 2022/23, at the time of writing, City looks to be on course to add a fifth Premier League title – as well as contesting the FA Cup final against their neighbors, Manchester United, at Wembley Stadium on June 3.
We will face Manchester United in the FA Cup final on Saturday 3 June 🏆 pic.twitter.com/DOsEoKcbpF
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 23, 2023
So as far as their domestic exploits are concerned, Pep has furthered his reputation and in a stylish way too – the fluid nature of City’s game, plus tactical innovations such as inverted full-backs that have rarely been seen on English soil before, has certainly led to a revolution of the modern game in the Premier League.
But the absence of the Champions League trophy in City’s collection will remain a major stain on Guardiola’s resumé – he will be desperate to end that hoodoo in June.
He is considered one of the greatest football managers of all time, and this UCL trophy would cement his status among the greats.