Pep Guardiola wins the treble again: Is he the greatest football manager?

By winning the UEFA Champions League final with Manchester City against Inter Milan on June 11, 2023, Pep Guardiola has become the first manger to win the treble twice with two different teams

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City manager celebrates with the UEFA Champions League 2022-23 trophy. Photo: Twitter

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City manager celebrates with the UEFA Champions League 2022-23 trophy. Photo: Twitter

Abhishek Singh New Delhi

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On Sunday night, June 11, 2023, Spain’s Pep Guardiola etched his name in history books by becoming the first and only football manager to complete the treble (winning the league, the Cup, and the Champions League in the same season) with two different teams. This happened after his team, Manchester City beat Italy’s Inter Milan 1-0 in the final of the UEFA Champions League 2022-23 at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. 

He had achieved the same feat with Barcelona in 2008-09. This has sparked the debate of whether Guardiola should be called the greatest football manager of all time or not. 

Two trebles: No one else has done it

Statistically, Guardiola stands alone on the throne as he has won the treble twice. Winning the treble in itself is a huge task. So huge that only five other managers have achieved it apart from Pep in the history of the game. Doing it twice with two different teams and in two different eras is a mastery in itself.  

He first won the treble in his first year as coach of Barcelona. In that season, he won La Liga, beat Athletic Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey final 4-1, and then went on to beat Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League final in Rome 2-0. All of this was done in his debut season as a manager of a top-division team. 

And nearly 14 years later, he has done it again. He won the league, his third in a row and fifth overall in six seasons with Manchester City. This happened on May 20 when second-placed Arsenal lost to Nottingham Forrest, making sure that they could never reach the 85-point mark where City were placed after 35 games out of 38.

City lost to Brentford in the last league game only because Guardiola was clear in his mind that he wanted the FA Cup title and needed to keep the players fresh for it so he could sacrifice one game. City went on to beat the arch-rivals Manchester United 2-1 at Wembley Stadium on June 3, 2023 to win the FA Cup. Eight days later, a lone goal from Rodri was enough for City to pip Inter Milan in the Champions League final and complete Guardiola's second treble. 

Three Champions League titles: Second in line behind Ancelotti

This victory in Istanbul was also his third champions league title and his first without Barcelona. After winning the last European title in the 2010-11 season, Guardiola had to settle for semi-final and final losses for twelve years before finally succeeding. 

When it comes to Champions League (CL) wins, he is behind Italy’s Carlo Ancelotti, who is currently managing Real Madrid. Ancelotti has won four CL titles, twice with Real Madrid ( in 2013-14 and 2021-22) and twice with AC Milan (2001-02 and 2006-07). With time by his side and having tasted victory after several defeats, Guardiola would be confident to get past Ancelotti. 

League title hat-tricks with three different teams: No one else has done it

There is another first for the 52-year-old Spaniard. With his third league title in a row for City, he became the only manager in history to complete three league title hat-tricks in three different leagues with three completely different teams and sets of players. 

After completing the league title hat-trick by winning the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 La Liga seasons with Barcelona, Pep moved to Bayern Munich in the 2013-14 and in his debut season itself, won the Bundesliga. He then won it back-to-back in the next two seasons as well to complete the hat-trick. At Bayern, Pep won everything but the Champions League, so he moved to City. 

He joined City in the 2016-17 season. Since then, he has been part of seven leagues and won five of them. In the first season, his team finished third in the league and reached the last 16 in the CL, where they lost to Monaco on away goals. In 2019-20, they finished second behind Liverpool and reached the last 8 of CL, where they lost to another French club Lyon 1-3. 

Apart from these two seasons, Pep has been untouchable in the EPL. Now, with the Champions League title, the ManCity coach has registered his place in footballing history as one of the great managers of all time, if not the greatest. 

First Published: Jun 13 2023 | 4:00 PM IST

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