Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Barcelona boss Pep’s star rising fast

If Pep Guardiola gets the better of Sir Alex Ferguson in Rome next week he will become the first Catalan manager to win the European Cup and his team will become the first Spanish side to do the treble.

He will complete an amazing 12 month transformation from youth team boss in his first season to the world's most successful manager this season, and the most successful in Barca's history — outdoing even Johan Cruyff who lead the dream team to four leagues and a European Cup but never won the treble.

For a man on the verge of so much history he was remarkably calm last night joking that if he added the Champions League to the Spanish league and Spanish Cup he would quit.

“I will go home” he said. "That will be it for me. Finish while I'm ahead,” adding: “At the moment I am trying not to put too much pressure on the players. We should just travel to Rome, have some nice pasta and wait for 7.45pm for the game to start.”

Behind the grin was an awareness that he has come from nowhere and will be leading Barcelona into the biggest game of their history.

He said: “This is the most important match of my life as a coach. Everything has happened so fast. A year ago, I was coach of Barcelona B in the third division. Ferguson has been in this business a few years more than me! What he has done is incredible; he has won so much. It's an honour to be able to play a final within a year of becoming a coach and be able to play against him; it makes me so proud.”

Barca's obsession with playing good football has even led some commentators to suggest that dazzling on the big stage and producing the spectacle of all spectacles will be enough but Guardiola stopped smiling when it was suggested 'just taking part' might be enough.

He said: “You have to go into a Champions League Final wanting to win it; you have to have that ambition, always. I don't share the feeling that it doesn't matter we've had a great season. I said this before the Real Madrid game: we have to go there thinking it is absolutely fundamental to win.”

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