Football is unrelenting. For all the beauty, magnificence and even wonder it produces, it's equally harsh, terrible and unrelenting in its attitude to hate. It's human nature, after all, to remember faults of your fellow man more than your own, exactly as that Greek proverb says.
Nobody remembers the goals that Jack Wilshere scored or even the performances he put in but everyone remembers how he was always injured. The same goes for Jose Mourinho with people forgetting that he's a serial winner, one of the few managers to win two Champions League trophies. But everyone remembers that he's been fired seven times, that he's led clubs to some of the worst football records in their history and it's a stat that will be trotted out even 100 years after he dies.
Then there's that Premier League title. The one that a few Liverpool and a lot of Manchester United fans want taken away from Manchester City. Few would remember the seasons Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, or even Gerrard himself had. But ask anybody remember most about Steven Gerrard, Liverpool and the 2013/14 title race and they’ll tell you. But more pertinent, it’s the direction the train is moving in for Pep Guardiola and it’s moving at an unrelenting-hard-to-jump-off pace but he has a chance to ride it into the future. By now the world knows about the ban and they've seen City come out of the ropes swinging and they’re doing it like a wild animal.
Not a ferocious one but more like a human being trying it’s very best to fight against the dying of their light. They’re raging against everything, from the moment the Der Spiegel leaks made its way into the world to VAR to beyond the moment UEFA announced that they were banning City in the most nonchalant way possible. No murmurs, or rumours or even hearsay but just a simple, Manchester City have been banned from European competitions. Yet the first thing the world wanted to know about was Pep Guardiola and his plans for the future.
Because not one month before the ban announcement, the Spaniard told the world that he will be honouring his contract until 2021. Then UEFA dropped the bomb on Manchester City’s plans for the future and yet Guardiola’s stance on staying has been rock solid. Yet ten days on and it looks a little rocky. His entire team looks a little shaken by the off the field issues and no longer look like that wonderful, robot and record-breaking side they once were. He himself looks exhausted and like he’s done with football for a while but for Pep this is the chance of a lifetime. It’s the chance that a lot of managers would kill to have because it’s a legacy creator. And for the Spaniard, this is his moment of redemption.
Because for all his brilliance, the teams that he’s created, the trophies that he has won, and even the football that he has played, Josep Guardiola has a black mark on his record. It’s a glaring factor that has plagued him most of his managerial career and it’s not the fact that he cannot win the Champions League without a certain Argentine. That does play a rather small part in the proceedings but the fact of the matter is, Guardiola has been opportunistic. He’s been picky when it comes to choosing clubs and he’s spent an incredible amount of money to win his trophies.
It’s the stick that the world beats him with constantly and deservedly so, it’s probably the only stick that will see him evade the hall of fame if football had one. Over the years, only Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho have spent more money than Guardiola with only Mourinho winning more. But while both Don Carlo and the Special One have struggled and trudged their way from the bottom, Guardiola’s luck has seen him walk from Barcelona to Bayern Munich to Manchester City. Out of the three, only City can lay the claim of being a weaker side but even they were on the up and up and they had the “Pep project” on ice for three years while they built for him, which instantly changes that.
He’s always been their end game. Yes, Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson approached him first but City had planned for the arrival for the better part of a decade. They brought in Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and even had Gabriel Jesus in the works as a teenager. Sergio Aguero was slowly being phased out, and money was being stockpiled. Txiki Bergstian and Ferran Soriano, two former Barcelona men were brought to help the transition and it was essentially giving Pep the power he wanted, at a club big enough to do things that he wanted and at a side that were guaranteed at least one title every three to four years.
More importantly, because while Premier League titles don’t matter, they gave him the chance to conquer Europe. The fact that he hasn't done it so far is another matter altogether but this ban, however, gives him the chance to not just change Manchester City’s fortunes and their legacy but transform his own. Guardiola staying at the Etihad, through thick and thin, leading the club out of this quagmire much like an overly dramatic Bollywood scene where the hero walks out of a fire carrying either a puppy or his love interest is what the world craves.
Because while the battle outside City’s little metropolitan city will witness the war for the future of football between a country and a football club vs European football's governing organisation, the battle inside City’s little metropolitan city will be even greater. It will see a man fight against all odds to not just keep his best players but prove to the world that he can and will lead a side without spending boatloads of money. It will see a man battered and exhausted still stand up and fight simply because he can and he needs to despite his war-chest locked. Because if the catalogue of reports floating about the world are right, then Manchester City will walk into next season without European football.
That means a loss of almost €100 plus million for the club and it will take them into serious debt which will seriously harm their spending. Forbes has revealed that the Cityzens could lose up to 11% of their income, which means that even a €100 million is on the lower side. Their only bright point is the fact that they’ll earn maybe €200 million by selling players (in Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero and a couple of others). Selling Raheem Sterling would be a preposterous idea but it would net them around that sum in one fell swoop. Yet, it shows exactly what City has built here.
Whether it's planning for a future just like this or sheer luck, we may never know. But this is a team built for Pep, by Pep and in the Pep way which is what will help the blue side of Manchester move forward. Maybe, in doing that and playing the football they have and can play under Pep, they change the narrative back to just the football. Away from the money, the controversy, the book fixing, the FFP breaking but take it back to just football. Maybe, by doing what they’ve done so well in the past on the pitch, they slowly move back into the footballing world’s good books and eventually, much like few remember Juventus’ sordid past, City’s sordid past will become nothing more than a footnote in the history books.
More importantly, it will transform Pep Guardiola’s legacy in the world of football and it may also, as much as Jose looks the insecure one, finally give Guardiola the validation he needs from the world.
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