It was mission accomplished for Pep Guardiola on Saturday night at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in ISTANBUL, and he did it with the big boss watching from the stands. By delivering Manchester City’s first Champions League title, Guardiola has done precisely what he was hired to do by owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan.
Achieving a treble at the same time has added the most incredible spark and glamour to Pep’s season.
Simply put: Manchester United are no longer the only English club to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season. Their 1999 triumph has now been matched by Guardiola’s City after Rodri’s 68th minute goal sealed a 1-0 win against Inter Milan.
Since arriving at the Etihad in 2016, Guardiola has won five Premier Leagues, masterminded a domestic treble in 2019 and guided City to 100 points — the only team to do so in the Premier League era — in the 2017-18 season. Despite all that success, the Champions League had been a tale of failure and near-misses, including losing the 2021 final against Chelsea in Porto.
Guardiola had even said before this game that his City side — and his time at the club — could not be regarded as legendary until they won the Champions League. But the wait is finally over, and Istanbul will always now mean just one thing to City and their supporters: ultimate glory.
“It was written in the stars,” Guardiola said. “It belongs to us. I’m tired. Calm. Satisfied. It’s so difficult to win it.”
This was certainly City’s night, but it is really Guardiola’s achievement and his tearful relief at the final whistle told the story of the pressure he has been under to make the club European champions. Sheikh Mansour’s presence at the game probably added to that stress. Despite pumping over £2 billion into the club since buying City in September 2008, he had only previously been to one game, a home win against Liverpool in 2010. The prospect of having to say “sorry, better luck next time” to the man who has bankrolled Guardiola’s team-building project was one the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach probably didn’t want to contemplate.
There’s no doubt Guardiola has been indulged like a favourite child by Sheikh Mansour and the club’s Abu Dhabi hierarchy, but he is the best manager in the world, and perhaps the best of all time — he has been indulged for a reason. He has welcomed the players he’s wanted like forward Erling Haaland, midfielders Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan, winger Jack Grealish, defender Ruben Dias and goalkeeper Ederson, who made two crucial saves from Romelu Lukaku and Robin Gosens as Inter chased a late equaliser, but he has made them all better.