Men's Team

Cruyff said hardest season is after winning – Balague

Spanish football expert Guillem Balague knows about great managers from Barcelona and what makes them so special.

Former Blaugrauna boss Pep Guardiola has followed in the footsteps of his mentor Johan Cruyff by becoming one of the greatest coaches in the game.

Any lingering questions about his legacy were finally quashed when he led City to our first Champions League success last season.

Balague says many people were delighted that his mesmerising brand of football was successful, but says he now faces a fresh challenge to try to do it all over again.

“I think many people celebrated the fact that Pep Guardiola and Manchester City reached the final and won it,” he said. “It's kind of the end of a story - the story of Manchester City trying to conquer Europe.

“But at the same time we know that's not the full end because the plan for Manchester City and for Pep Guardiola when he first arrived was, firstly to dominate the domestic scene which clearly has been done, but also to be a regular in the semi-finals of Europe.


“Target met, one final won one final lost, but I'm looking forward to see how they face what it is in the eyes of Johan Cruyff, the mentor of Pep Guardiola, the hardest season which is the season after winning.

“Winning after winning is the hardest thing in the game.”

City had some memorable nights on the way to lifting the trophy, beating European giants Bayern Munich and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium and the unforgettable final against Inter.

And Balague says some of our football was breathtaking, notably the 4-0 victory over 14-times winners Real.

“What City did last season is to take us to a completely different place in some games - against Real Madrid in the semi-finals for instance,” he said.

“It was just unbelievable. I did a documentary for CBS, following me throughout the season and I react straight after games to what has happened. After that game against Real Madrid, the second leg I was speechless.

“It was so unique in the way that City managed to get to the final and once there, they were always going to be the favourite. But if you looked at final, there were moments where Inter could have taken it so you can never take anything for granted.”

Kicking off against Red Star Belgrade at the Etihad tonight at 20:00 (UK), this will be our 13th successive season in Europe’s top competition.

Reaching at least the last-four in the past three seasons helped the squad gain experience and know what was required to secure the Champions League trophy.

“The years of getting close to winning the years and of identifying how to play in Europe and how to play in the Premier League [were important],” Balague added.

“And the fact that Pep Guardiola quite clearly reinforced both boxes last season and that the Premier League was also obtained.

“Certainly in matches where every little detail can take you one way or the other, to actually be able to have a very strong defence and an attack, that is very effective in taking you to finals.”