He was no longer a glacially cool figure – Pep Guardiola was agitated. He was irritated by questions about whether he would cut and run to Manchester City. He was angry at the four successive defeats that have tarnished Bayern Munich’s season. He was furious when asked if he was “still the best coach in the world?”
“I have said it 200 million times. I have one more year left on my contract and I will remain here next season,” he said, attempting to end the lingering hopes he would take charge of City this summer. “I didn’t come here as ‘the best trainer in the world’,” he added. “That is so much crap.
“From the beginning here in Munich I did my very best. I hope it is enough for the players, for the fans, for the legends of Bayern Munich and for the journalists and, if not, I am sorry. It was a dream when Bayern Munich asked me to come here.
“I have won everything in Barcelona and won plenty here but it was down to the players. I won everything in Barcelona because I had this super team full of great players. Last year in Munich I won almost everything but that, too, was down to the players. I am a good trainer for my team – that is all.”
If Guardiola is going to take Bayern through to the Champions League final, he will have to orchestrate perhaps the greatest performance even of his remarkable career in tonight’s semi-final second leg. In the quarter-finals, Bayern overturned a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Porto. Now they are 3-0 down – but the opponents are Barcelona.
The late collapse in the Nou Camp last Wednesday that followed defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals of the German Cup in a slapstick and utterly un-Germanic penalty shoot-out, spawned headlines like “How Good is Pep Really?” It also sparked speculation about whether he would finally accept the entreaties of his close friend and City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, to join him at the Etihad Stadium. Begiristain and Guardiola met in Munich the day after Bayern’s 6-1 demolition of Porto.
City had discounted reports from Qatar, where Guardiola has close links, that he had already agreed a pre-contract to replace Manuel Pellegrini. However, the speculation was fuelled by Pellegrini’s reluctance to answer even the most banal question about his future and by an interview given by Dietmar Hamann who played in both Munich and Manchester.
Hamann said some very good sources had told him City and Guardiola had begun talks two months ago and it was “probable” he would be in charge at the Etihad next season. If he is, then Guardiola will have to perform a brazen U-turn on the words he uttered here yesterday. Faced with Guardiola’s statement, Hamann tweeted: “It is a long time until next season”.
For a Bayern side without the injured Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben, 90 minutes will seem a very short time indeed tonight to recover a three-goal deficit against some of the best footballers on the planet.
Two years ago, managed by the resolutely unglamorous figure of Jupp Heynckes, Bayern thrashed Barcelona 4-0 in the Allianz Arena to reach the European Cup final at Wembley.
Miracles can happen in football. It is, after all, a decade since a Liverpool team vastly inferior to the one Guardiola can field overturned a three-goal deficit against Milan to win the European Cup in Istanbul.
His Barça counterpart, Luis Enrique, is someone who knows how to deal with irritating questions. When he gave his press conference before they played Manchester City in February, Luis Enrique was hounded by journalists who reckoned his future could be measured in days. Now he was once more asked if he would be at the Nou Camp next season. Luis Enrique is four games away from winning the treble.Reuse content