After losing the first leg of his UEFA Champions League semi final tie with Atletico Madrid, the stakes were raised even higher for Pep Guardiola.
He was now tasked with the responsibililty of finding a way past a superb defense mechanism and also qualifying for the finals.
Maybe it was all the pressure that cause him to say, “If I don’t win, you can kill me.” The pressure must have gotten to the philosopher.
On Tuesday, he completed only one of those tasks. He unlocked the Atletico defense, went on to win the game but failed to qualify for the final thanks to the highly dreaded “Away Goal” rule.
His team got knocked out and different statistics started showing up of how he had failed to make it past the semi finals for three consecutive seasons and so on and so forth.
The social media stratosphere pounced on the trend and called the Philosopher a failure. Because he failed on the big stage, Pep has been called out and labelled a failure by most.
But is Guardiola, after crashing out for a third consecutive time, a failure?
I don’t think so and here’s four reasons to prove my point:
– But Luis Enrique and His MSN Gang Lost To This Same Set of Iron Men Too…
… and were not labelled failures. The media did not throw stones at them. Why is Pep now being branded a failure? One of the most dreaded trio in football history gave their all (plus all the referee favours) and still lost to this awesone set up of a team. It just did not work for them. They, in the end, weren’t regarded as failures. For this same reason, Guardiola is NOT A FAILURE. He played against a compact, very disciplined team whose defense system alone aroused fear in other teams. He played against a side better than his. And Pep knows what it feels like to be the coach of the better side. He has seen coaches quiver with trembling hands (cue Sir Alex Ferguson in that Champions League final) at the sight of a team FAR BETTER than theirs. His team. He knows what it feels like to be in TOTAL CONTROL. Now, the roles have been switched. His team, against Atletico Madrid, was second best (although the scoreline may be deceiving). And the Philosopher must definitely understand this better than anyone. Only one team can win. Losing to a better team just sends you back to the drawing boards and scheming sheets and blueprints. It doesn’t make you a failure.
– Destiny Is TOO Powerful…
… and by destiny, it was just Diego Simeone’s time! Of course I’m not a seer or a fortune-teller but this one was completely out of Pep’s hands. You may not agree with me on the validity of this point and that’s okay. But you’ll agree that football requires plenty of luck. The kind of luck Ramos needed to be in the right place at the right time for that header in that Champions League final against Atletico Madrid. The kind of luck Shevchenko did NOT HAVE that cost him that penalty against Liverpool and ultimately the trophy. The Terry slip against Man. Utd? It’s an endless list and Pep just signed on to this list; The Luckless Ones. But luck equals opportunity plus preparation you may say. History tells me Guardiola was prepared for this opportunity to qualify for the Champions League final. How? He always finds a way to produce a master-piece after losing the first legs of encounters like this. Games against Porto and Barcelona come to mind. So what happened? He was simply unlucky. Or, to put it better, he has just been unlucky with Bayern. It’s obvious that no matter what he tried at Munich, the Champions League trophy would have eluded him still. Why? Because HE HAD TRIED ALL THAT A COACH SHOULD! All that a coach could. He shuffled formations and even benched Muller. If you were the Philosopher, what else could you have done to qualify? I thought as much. It just wasn’t part of destiny to win the Champions League with the Bavarians
– Carlo Ancelotti’s Announcement Caused Pep To Falter in Europe
Although he (Pep) may not admit it, this affected him in a number of ways. It couldn’t have affected his Bundesliga dominance because Bayern owns German football. So the effect showed up in his European campaign. Allow me to propose a theory to prove my point. The past two seasons before this current one, Guardiola had failed in Europe. Although Bayern dominated the Bundesliga, it was too easy there. And the Bayern executives were bored. There was a sharp hunger amongst the executives to win another Champions League trophy. At least that’s why they employed the Philosopher… to win the ultimate prize again so that they could show off to clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona as fellow European power houses. And for two years, they were patient with Guardiola. But Pep failed to accomplish what he was signed for. And at a big club like Bayern, two years is a long time. So they set out to look for a household name in Europe; a name synonymous with winning the Champions League. They found Ancelotti and made the “mistake” of announcing the Italian. Pep must have felt bad. He must have seen the appointment as a “thank you for coming, you’ve tried but failed” note. And like Pellegrini, no matter how much Guardiola tried, Bayern’s “Carlo move” was always going to hunt the Spaniard. And hunt it did.
– What If He Didn’t Win Anything At All?
Of course this is a completely unreasonable point to make given that Pep was a coach at a club as good as Bayern Munich. But what if? What if, in his three years in Munich, he constantly got beaten to the league title by Dortmund and Leverkusen and co.? There’s a reason why I added this point to my article. Furthermore, there’s a reason why I made it the last point of the article. Here’s why. According to the book, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion: “There is a principle in human perception, the contrast principle, that affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another.” The book goes on to explain how much difference it makes which point is made first or which fact is presented last. In this case, to buttress my point, I’ll like to present Guardiola’s three Bundseliga titles as the final exhibit in my defense of the Philosopher. My Lords (dear readers), what if he didn’t win those titles? It would have been a disaster right? But he did. The only trophy that eluded him was the Champions League and the Super Cup and maybe the Club World Cup. When compared, Guardiola won some and lost some. Now that doesn’t make him a failure does it? I rest my case.
It’d be great to hear from you. What do you think? Kindly share with me in the comments section below.
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and engage him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn