Pep has been waiting 10 YEARS to complete Champions League hat-trick

Pep Guardiola has been waiting 10 YEARS to complete a hat-trick of Champions League wins: He’s been thwarted by Messi, Mbappe, Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and even Lyon… now can he finally add to his early Barcelona triumphs with Man City?

  • Manchester City face Chelsea in the Champions League final on Saturday night
  • It is City manager Pep Guardiola’s first Champions League final since 2011
  • He won two Champions Leagues in his first three years a manager at Barcelona
  • Since then he has lost four semi-finals, three quarter-finals and a round of 16 tie 

When Barcelona tore Manchester United apart at Wembley to win their second Champions League in three years under Pep Guardiola in May 2011, few doubted that we were looking at a manager who would become the most successful the competition had ever seen.

Three years into his career in the dugout, Bob Paisley’s record of three European Cups as a manager was already in Guardiola’s grasp aged just 40.

It is remarkable then to think that not only has Guardiola failed to add to his European crowns as a manager in the last decade, but that Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane have gone past him to join Paisley on three.

Pep Guardiola kisses the Champions League trophy after beating Manchester United in 2011


2009 – Winner (Barcelona)

2010 – Semi-final (Barcelona)

2011 – Winner (Barcelona)

2012 – Semi-final (Barcelona)

2014 – Semi-final (Bayern Munich)

2015 – Semi-final (Bayern Munich)

2016 – Semi-final (Bayern Munich)

2017 – Round of 16 (Manchester City)

2018 – Quarter-final (Manchester City)

2019 – Quarter-final (Manchester City)

2020 – Quarter-final (Manchester City)

2021 – Final (Manchester City) 

It is not as if the Catalan’s stock has fallen in that time – if anything it has risen as he has cemented his status as the best manager in the world by winning three league titles apiece with Bayern Munich and Manchester City to add to the trio he won at Barca.

But for some reason – well, many reasons – the big-eared trophy has eluded him. He has not even made a final since Wembley, with Saturday night’s showdown against Chelsea in Porto the first time he has made it to the showpiece since.

It is perhaps fitting that Chelsea are the opponents as they delivered the first of eight agonising blows to Guardiola in his attempt to win the Champions League for a third time in 2012. 

After a frustrating 1-0 first-leg defeat in London when Barca had dominated the ball and missed a host of chances, Guardiola’s side finally took control of the semi-final in the first-half at the Nou Camp, with Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta netting either side of a daft John Terry red card. 

What followed next is the stuff of legend at Stamford Bridge, but probably still haunts Guardiola to this day. Ramires’ sublime lobbed finish right on half-time gave the Blues a scarcely believable away-goal lead in the tie, before Lionel Messi missed a penalty in the second half as the hosts peppered the Chelsea goal looking for the winner. Then, in injury-time, Fernando Torres hit Barca on the break to seal a memorable win for the eventual Champions League winners. Guardiola left Barca that summer and took a year’s sabbatical – perhaps to recover from that match alone.

After a year out, Guardiola returned to manage German giants Bayern Munich, and he soon had them playing the same dominant, winning football his Barcelona side had played. Again though, despite cantering to three Bundesliga titles, the semi-final stage would prove his undoing in the Champions League, with Bayern slipping to last-four defeats three years in a row, all against Spanish opposition.

The first of those defeats was a shock humbling against Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, made all the worse for Barcelona man Guardiola by the fact that it kickstarted a period of dominance in the Champions League for their arch rivals. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Bayern were favourites heading into the second leg in Munich but were trailing 3-0 after just 34 minutes as they were torn apart by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale on the counter-attack. Ronaldo added a late fourth to rub salt in the wound and seal a stunning 5-0 aggregate win.

The following year, Guardiola returned to the Nou Camp for the first time since his Barcelona exit and was welcomed back by a Lionel Messi masterclass. After 76 minutes, the score was 0-0 with Bayern having controlled much of the first leg. By full-time, it was 3-0 and the tie was as good as ever, with Messi scoring two and turning Jerome Boateng into a meme as left him for dead for the first. Bayern won the second leg 3-2 but the damage was already done.

Guardiola looks deflated as his Bayern side slip to a 4-0 home defeat by Real Madrid in 2014

Lionel Messi leaves Jerome Boateng bamboozled before going on to score in 2015

Messi celebrates as Barcelona see off Bayern on their way to winning the Champions League

Not to be outdone by their more fashionable rivals Real and Barcelona, Diego Simeone’s rugged Atletico Madrid side were the next to crush Pep’s dream of a third Champions League crown in 2016 at the semi-final stage, executing a professional away-goals win with Antoine Griezmann netting the crucial strike in Munich.

So Pep moved to Manchester City in 2016 hoping to avoid more Champions League semi-final heartache, having lost four in a row. He did just that – but not in the way he would have liked as City surprisingly failed to get past the quarter-final stage of the competition under him four times – until that run was ended this year.

In 2017, a brilliant young Monaco side spearheaded by the teenage Kylian Mbappe sealed an enthralling away-goals win over Pep’s fledgling Man City side in the round of 16 after a 6-6 aggregate scoreline. That season was very much a bedding-in one for Guardiola, but City were up and running to his Barcelona and Bayern standards in the next two seasons. However, Premier League success did not translate to the Champions League, with three quarter-final exits in a row.

Monaco youngster Kylian Mbappe fires past Willy Caballero at the Etihad in 2017

The first of those saw a seething Pep confront referee Felix Brych at half-time after his side had fallen 3-0 down to Liverpool in the first-leg at Anfield. They never recovered, and went out 5-1 on aggregate. 

In 2019, it was the turn of another domestic rival, Tottenham, to knock Guardiola’s City out at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League after a memorable second leg. 4-3 up on the night, but trailing on away goals after a 1-0 first-leg defeat, Raheem Sterling thought he had won it for City in injury-time, only for VAR to rule out his goal for a marginal offside and to leave Pep distraught.

Last year’s defeat against Lyon, however, was most the abject of them all, as a City side fatigued by the Covid pandemic looked out of sorts against opponents who should have been easy to see off in a one-legged clash. Sterling’s late missed sitter at 2-1 down proved crucial as Lyon ran up the other end to seal a shock 3-1 win.

Guardiola fumes at referee Felix Brych during the 3-0 first-leg defeat by Liverpool in 2018

Guardiola looks disconsolate after his Manchester City side are knocked out by Tottenham

Raheem Sterling cannot believe he has missed as City were stunned by Lyon last year

To this season then; given the context of the last decade, getting past those dramatic two-legged knockout rounds where Guardiola now holds so many agonising memories, was the hard bit. At every stage City went through – round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final – there has been a recent defeat to reflect on. Now he is back in the final, however, Pep will only hold happy memories from his two previous appearances as a manager.

After 10 years of hurt in Europe, Guardiola finally has the opportunity to complete his Champions League hat-trick, and move himself level with Paisley, Ancelotti and Zidane.  

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