Since Pep Guardiola took charge of Manchester City in 2016, the club has won major trophies, yet he says his term would be judged on his success in the Champions League, a piece of silverware that has agonisingly eluded the England champions. Ahead of the last-16 tie against RB Leipzig, the tie poised at 1-1, he admitted: “It’s public opinion. It doesn’t mean I agree with that, but, absolutely, I’ll be judged on that,” said the 52-year-old Spaniard.
Right from the first day upon his arrival, the Champions League has been like a millstone hanging around his neck. “Since I arrived here, ahead of the first game in the Champions League, the first time sitting before the media, people said I was here to win the Champions League. I said: ‘What?
“If I was manager of Real Madrid – that is not going to happen – I could understand it, but here, I don’t know. But I accept it. As much as I go through it’s not going to change that,’’ said Guardiola, who last won the Champions League in 2011.
Though he is constantly asked about his perceived underachievement in this tournament, he says it is a tournament he keeps close to his heart. “It’s lovely: playing teams from another part of Europe, not the same ones as England. It’s special, so nice to show our club all around Europe,” he said.
Under Guardiola, City have topped the league in four of the six seasons he has been in charge, developed a distinct identity and playing style, yet the missing continental trophy has dimmed the glow of his tenure. The closest they have come to Champions League glory was when they reached the 2021 final, where they lost 1-0 to Chelsea.
It annoys captain Kevin de Bruyne too. “We’ve not won it but we’ve done really well in the Champions League and I know people base everything on only winning. “Obviously I want to win it, but I know as long as we don’t I’ll get the same questions and I’m fine because people judge you on that. We just try to win these games and be the best people and team we can be,” he said.
“I know people base everything on only winning but I feel there’s been a lot of circumstances in these kind of games – the Madrid game, the Tottenham game where we deserved to go through but didn’t. These are moments in games where these things happen,” he added.