Drum roll please! Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola turns 50 today.
Guardiola has had a remarkable career both as a player and manager. For starters, he won an Olympic Gold Medal with Spain as an U23 player in 1992. He was also named Spain’s best player in the competition. In 2000, he was named in the UEFA European Championship Team of the tournament.
Although France won the tournament, Guardiola shared the honour with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Paolo Maldini, Laurent Blanc, Raul and Thierry Henry amongst others. Certainly not a bad company to keep. But that was just the beginning. His real talent in the game has shone through from the dugout.
From Barcelona to Bayern Munich and now Man City, the birthday boy has been one of the best football managers the world has seen. Starting out with fourteen trophies in four years at Camp Nou from 2008-2012, while playing unbelievable football, the world watched with awe.
After a year out of the game to catch his breath, he returned with Bayern Munich in 2013 and added another seven crowns to the tally during his three years with the German side. Unlike at Barca where he conquered the continent twice, the only trophy missing this time around was the Champions League.
He was expected to reclaim it at the Etihad Stadium.
Unfortunately, now in his fifth season with the Blues that has not yet happened.
In fact, Guardiola went trophyless for the first time in his illustrious career as a top-flight manager in the 2016/17 campaign. It was his first season in the Premier League and many say he was still trying to adjust to the rigours of the English game.
Then under the Catalan, City went into the 2017/18 season with a vengeance.
The Blues played some of the best football in the land and ended the campaign with the Premier League and Carabao Cup double. They also made history as the first side in England to hit the hundred points mark in a Premier League season. But there was more to come. The next term turned out to be like none has ever been in the history of the nation’s football landscape.
The Cityzens won all the trophies on offer in the land, sweeping away opponents with relative ease. From the league title to the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and even the Community Shield. Yet, the manager is still seen as a failure by some.
Rival fans are quick to point at the huge sums of money spent under the Catalan as a reason to label him “Fraudiola”. Some are convinced he is a failure as long as he does not deliver European honours. And that is because the club has been winning domestic silverware long before he showed up at Manchester.
Thankfully, the signs are good moving forward. The team has learnt a lot and matured during his time in charge. This season, the team has conceded the least number of goals among teams in the Premier League (13). That’s a rarity as leaking goals has been a problem at the root of our failure to progress in Europe when it matters most.
Scheduled to face German side Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League Round of 16 next month, there is hope of progressing to the later stages. It is true, we are not where we want to be yet. But we are grateful for the work Guardiola has done so far.
Eight trophies in four years at the Etihad Stadium is no mean feat. We have dominated England in that time frame. City has now become a force to be reckoned with. Plus we play some of the best football you can find around. It is surely a matter of time before we finally conquer Europe. Whether that happens under Guardiola or not, we will wait patiently for that time.
But that will not stop us from appreciating the work he has done so far.
So take a bow Pep, you have done and are doing a good job.
Here is to more trophy celebrations at the Etihad Stadium!