Imagine that a decade ago I told Pep Guardiola that he would not lift the European Cup again.
The wait continues.
Three times they failed in campaigns with Bayern Munich. Now the fifth failure with Manchester City.
For all his coaching genius, Guardiola can be too smart for his own good.
The 10-year wait to return to the Champions League final – after the second of his successes in Barcelona – is a long time to spend thinking about how to lift the trophy again. And too much thinking if Chelsea’s takeover strategy was something to move on Saturday.
“I did what is best for the game,” Guardiola said. “We fought a little bit for the long balls they use – the second ball and after they expire. At this point you need inspiration, quality.”
Thinking of the biggest match in City history, the unknown squad sent by Guardiola was defeated by a coach only in his 30th match for Chelsea.
While City awaits their first European title, Thomas Tuchel delivered the second Chelsea just four months after replacing Frank Lampard. Make no mistake: City had no one to blame but themselves on the night they had just one shot on goal when Chelsea won 1-0 in Porto.
Perhaps a small surprise then that Sheikh Mansour did not show up in Portugal to attend what would be his second known match since buying City 13 years ago.
Even with all the money, Guardiola liked Abu Dhabi’s City property to shape the team in his own way, there is a brutal reality. He has not yet won the Champions League without a team containing Lionel Messi.
How different things would have been if Messi had managed to leave Barcelona by force, as planned. It’s time for another summer chase for the 33-year-old Argentine, maybe? Rewarding the outstanding Harry Kane from Tottenham could take $ 200 million.
We are used to City playing without strikers. Still, in a desperate search for an equalizer, Gabriel Jesus and then Sergio Aguero were sent off.
There would be no fairytale ending for Aguero with a repeat of the late drama that saw him win his first Premier League title in 2012. The Premier League trophy has been lifted four more times since then – three times under Guardiola, including last Sunday. – The quest to win the biggest prize in European football continues.
“We’re sad today,” Guardiola said, “but when we analyze, it’s been a successful season for us.”
There was an unexpected failure in the loss of Kevin De Bruyne’s ingenious ingenuity due to the turmoil after an hour at the Estádio do Dragão.
But why did Guardiola again stiffen with Ilkay Gundogan’s creativity when he is the club’s top scorer this season? Instead, the German was detained as a defensive midfielder while Rodri and Fernandinho started on the bench. At least one of the position specialists has started in every game except one by Saturday.
“Gundogan has played in this position for many years,” Guardiola said. “To have speed with the ball, to find the small players, the quality, the brilliant players between the lines and that was the solution.”
The final big decision in a season when Guardiola will have to settle for another double of self – disappointment with City’s high expectations, which did not exist until the takeover in 2008 – the Premier League and the League Cup.
First final defeat for the cup, when the manager of City leaves Guardiola with the unfortunate distinction that he is on a par with one of the other managerial greats in the game. Long retired, Alex Ferguson is still talking about the regret that he only won the Champions League twice with Manchester United.
Guardiola’s wait for the third extends to the sixth season in City.
“Now I want to go home and take a break for a week or two,” Guardiola said. “Then I’ll start seeing with the club what’s best.”