Men’s Team

Formidable Pep fills Spain with pride

PRIDE: Pep's achievements in England are widely appreciated in his native Spain.
All four English trophies won in a single season, the Premier League’s highest points tally, countless records broken and a bewitching brand of football which caught the imagination of the whole country.

Pep Guardiola’s had quite the impact since he arrived on these shores three summers previous, much to the delight of fans in his native Spain.

An ‘enormous pride’ is how Graham Hunter describes the reaction to City’s 2018/19 exploits.

The Spanish-based, Scottish journalist has followed Guardiola’s career closely and penned Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, which chronicled the trophy laden spell Pep enjoyed at the helm of his boyhood club.

And the pride he speaks of is not merely due Guardiola winning every honour England has to offer, but also because of the manner in which he has done so.

“There was enormous focus in the media on the quality of this year’s Premier League title race,” he explains.

“When legends of the game, like Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher, both of whom are high profile in Spain, say, ‘this is the highest quality’, those words echo over here.

“Whether it be writers or radio commentators, there is an enormous pride in the way people talk about how Guardiola conquered the cynicism that his brand of football couldn’t work in England.

“There is a pride that he is seen to be setting new standards or changing English football.”

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What that means for this country’s future fortunes has also been a source of intrigue for the Spanish football community.

Hunter admits that pride could morph into concern if the outcome of Guardiola’s indelible imprint on the English game initiates Anglo dominance at Champions League and international level.

It is perhaps surprising then, to hear that for all the trophies and blockbuster displays, gritty wins in the aftermath of the most dramatic defeat have ratcheted up the level of appreciation in Pep’s homeland.

And it’s because of that – the ability to dovetail free-flowing football with a steely British determination – that there is a feeling in the country where the European Cup is sacrosanct, that City are not too far away from lifting the famous trophy.

“There were lots of headlines and articles written in praise of City coming back and toughing out the fixtures against Burnley and Manchester United,” Hunter adds.

“The fact that they bounced back from the second leg against Spurs drew gigantic admiration.

“I think the perception of this season will be, ‘uh-oh, they’re on their way.’

“There’ll be another market, players like Phil Foden, Aymeric Laporte and Raheem Sterling will be one year further on in their Pep development and therefore more dangerous.

“I suspect Spain will be thinking ‘look out’.”

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Back in Manchester and prior to claiming his first FA Cup, a prominent feature of the title race was Guardiola’s willingness to pay respect to the challenge posed by Liverpool this season.

It was the toughest title of his career, he said, and for Hunter, a man who observed Pep’s 2011 treble winning Barcelona squad at close quarters, it may even be his greatest achievement.

Not only did he edge the Merseyside outfit in a ding-dong battle for the title, but he did so while coping with injuries to key players.

“It will be lauded,” Hunter says, explaining Spain’s reaction to City lifting four trophies in one season.

“I think there is quite a disparity in the players’ level of experience, how long they’ve been at City, the type of people they are, the type of culture they come from and the number of injuries.

“Therefore, there is an argument that this might be his greatest triumph, even without the Champions League. 

“I think even without the single, all-defining, iconic performance, like the 2011 Champions League semi-final at the Bernabeu or the final at Wembley, it could be his most complete achievement.

“When he said this Liverpool team rank with the 2011 Real Madrid side as his most complete rival ever, I think he really meant it.

“And if that’s true, then what does it say about his league triumph?

“Maybe it is his number one achievement.”

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