On Tuesday night, what we have known was inevitable was finally confirmed: Manchester City were officially crowned Premier League champions.
The focus has now shifted to the all-important game at the end of the month- City’s first UEFA Champions League final clash against Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea.
For many, Guardiola will forever be a failure at the Etihad until he wins the coveted European crown. In fact, many still consider his stint at Bayern a massive failure simply because he failed on the continent.
So, does winning the UEFA Champions League or any cup competition seal a manager’s greatness?
I think not. And here’s why.
Why UCL Win Don’t Determine Football Greatness
For years, I have always argued that cup competitions do not in any way reflect a manager’s true greatness. Cup competitions have a limited number of games – at most seven or eight. Even in the Champions League, the real competition really starts in the Round of 16.
You can as well win just four games from the Round of 16 and win the prestigious competition. You don’t believe it?
Well, a certain Roberto Di Matteo lost to Napoli in the Round of 16; beat Benfica twice; drew against Barca after winning the first leg; and drew in the final to win Europe’s most coveted crown.
That’s after a not-so-stellar West Brom career.
Going back to 2006, Arsenal had one of the worst league forms under manager Arsene Wenger but went on a fantastic run in Europe to reach the final of the competition.
It just shows you that with the right tactics, you can juggle your way to a cup win, including the UEFA Champions League.
Roberto Di Matteo did it.
Arsene Wenger almost did it in one of his worst campaigns.
If all a manager needs to win is the UEFA Champions League to not be branded a failure, then the great Sir Alex Ferguson may be called a failure – two Champions League crowns in 26 years doesn’t exactly make great reading, right?
But that’s the thing: Ferguson’s greatness isn’t built on the number of European titles. It is on the longevity and how he was able to create different teams over different eras to win league titles.
Great Coaches Without Impressive Champions League Record
Arsene Wenger has never won a European crown. His greatness is in creating teams that won league titles including going through a whole season unbeaten.
Jose Mourinho is a Chelsea great. He never won the Champions League crown. It was his ability to upstage the greatest Arsenal team in his very first season conceding just 15 goals in the process. Then, he won it again, left, came back, and won it again.
Thomas Tuchel might as well lose both the FA Cup and Champions League finals this month and save banter from rivals, most Chelsea fans will keep faith in the German.
Because they’ve seen enough in not just the cup runs but in the transformation of their league form.
Zinedine Zidane would not be considered a great manager now if he only won the Champions League in 2016. He went on and did it two more times including winning league titles twice.
By the end of last season, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta finished as FA Cup winners despite having mixed results in the league. Many Arsenal fans were convinced he is the man to take them to the next level.
Fast forward 12 months and all don’t seem to be well at the Emirates.
12 months ago, some Manchester United fans may have swapped Ole Gunnar Solskjear with Arteta. Now, even the mere suggestion will be considered an abomination.
So, what changed?
It’s simple: a cup run and win while good doesn’t ultimately reflect the greatness of a manager the way a league run would.
Why Guardiola doesn’t need Champions League
Pep has won what he considers the “hardest” title of his career; it’s his third in four seasons. Crucially, he is winning by creating a new team from the one he met just the same way Fergie did it at United and Wenger did at Arsenal.
The Spaniard is already on his way to cement his greatness as a City manager. Beating Chelsea in the Champions League will be awesome but losing it will not take away his greatness or make him a failure. The league returns say otherwise.