The Soccer Whiz: Admiration, but most of all, respect!


IF there’s one thing we have to accord Manchester City, it’s respect.

The manner with which they managed to dismantle serial winners and champions Real Madrid with such consummate ease must rank as one of the finest footballing displays ever.

What we witnessed was a performance of such magnificence with everything just falling so magically into place for a frighteningly good Manchester City who could do no wrong on the night.

To Real Madrid’s horror, Manchester City’s performance was evidence that the jigsaw that Pep Guardiola has been trying to assemble at City since arriving at the club is now perfectly assembled.

It’s worth bearing in mind, in fact it must be taken into account that Manchester City were playing the fourteen times champions of Europe, that they were up against the reigning winners as well as the winners of five of the last ten finals.

This, therefore, was no ordinary performance, this was certainly no mickey mouse average feat, and without a shadow of doubt, this was not just another semi-final Champions League win.

Indeed this was a performance which will be talked about and lauded for years.

This was a night which launched Manchester City into orbit, into that distinguished strata of out of worldly excellence which is usually the preserve of a very select few.

On Wednesday night, Manchester City did a Neil Armstrong and landed on the blue moon, signifying their attainment of an almost unsurpassable level and standard of excellence.

On Wednesday night they put on a show so sensational that if you never saw another football match in your entire lifetime, you could justifiably say that it wouldn’t bother you because you had been privileged to view the best at their very very best.

Respect Manchester City.

They deserve it!

And so too does the man who has them on the verge of the most incredible treble in modern English football history.

Pep Guardiola is on the cusp of footballing immortality.

This is a man who will go down in history as a brilliant player who became an even better manager, footballing intellectual, master strategist and serial winner.

If Leo Messi is considered the goat, then  Pep Guardiola surely must rank as the greatest shepherd who ever lived.

Regular readers of my article will be somewhat surprised at what appears to be a complete turnaround in my assessment of Guardiola but in truth, I have always admired the man and respected his work.

I do believe though that Guardiola in his managerial travels never quite completed the task on hand, always drifting away from each of his clubs in mid-flight when there were still missions to accomplish.

I felt this particularly at Barcelona when armed with a side that should have dominated the world game for a decade, he departed prematurely going off on a serenade citing the need for a break from the rigours and pressures of the game.

How anyone could leave quite possibly the greatest club side assembled in history at the height of it’s powers and success is mind boggling and baffling.

I can state with absolute confidence that had Pep not moved on when he did,

Barcelona’s haul of Champions League titles in the last 15 years which sits at three would be greater than Real Madrid’s staggering five!

His stay at Munich was largely underwhelming in that he arrived at a side that had just been crowned Champions League winners but under Guardiola’s tutelage, the Bavarians failed to add the premier European trophy to their tally.

One always got the feeling that at Bayern, Guardiola was simply exploring tactics and using the Bundesliga as a training ground while buying time before a big money move and project opened up for him in the English Premiership.

For what it’s worth,his spell at Manchester City has domestically been unprecedented with an almost inevitable EPL title each season broken only once in recent times by Liverpool’s gladiators of 2020.

However, they have yet to claim the one crown they have craved and desired more than any other with Pep Guardiola usually being cast as the villain for his tactics and squad tinkering as they annually bow out of the Champions League.

This then if all goes according to the form book, could well be the year that City at last emerge from their Champions League doldrums.

Guardiola though will not sleep well until victory against Inter is actually in the bag, as I suspect that he still has intermittent nightmares of Jose Mourinho and his Inter side very much against all the odds, edging his Barcelona in their semi-final in 2010.

Much like their heroes from the treble success of 2010,Inter Milan will go into the final as outright underdogs.

I cannot though see Inter being carved apart as easily as a dreadfully disappointing under par Real Madrid and the match will definitely be a tighter contest than most scribes anticipate.

In the end though, I believe that Pep’s number is up and City will not go cold turkey as they claim their first ever Champions League crown in Istanbul.

For Guardiola, such a success will lift the heavy burden of expectation that rests on his shoulders for his being unable to secure a Champions League title away from Barcelona.

The coronation of Pep Guardiola as the undisputed King of managers will, thereafter, take place and Guardiola will be entitled to revel in the outpouring of praise that will come his way for turning Manchester City into the greatest club side in world football.

As we sit back and admire this potentially record breaking team who fully deserve our utmost respect and acknowledgement, we must not forget that there’s another side to the world of football which has regrettably raised it’s nasty head in the past week.

We as fans of the beautiful game are the reason why this multi-billion dollar industry exists but sadly we are also to blame for the ever increasing displays of ugliness being shown towards the players, officials and other fans too.

On Sunday, as the Barcelona players celebrated winning their La Liga title after a 4-2 victory away at cross town rivals Espanyol, swarms of Espanyol fans stormed onto the field to confront and possibly attack the Barcelona players.

Fortunately the players had heeded the warning to get inside the safety of the enclosure just in the nick of time and no player was injured.

This fan action is unwarranted, unnecessary and a slight on our beautiful game.

If the players cannot freely express their joy without fear of reprisal from rival fans, then what does it say about football fans and our society?

Far worse are the death threats Patrick Bamford received online recently after missing a penalty for his beloved Leeds.

Surely missing the penalty was a painful enough punishment for Bamford himself, but to receive such threats must be hugely traumatic and is way out of line!

We should cast aside for a moment the fact that football players are high earning performers and celebrities and understand that they are humans too with feelings and emotions.

It’s no wonder that there are increasing numbers of footballers seeking help from depression and related illnesses.

I’m acutely aware that the problems raised are sadly a reflection of the society we live in.

Football however is the one social activity that has the power to bond and bring people together; regardless of race, gender or religious affiliation.

Measures should be immediately introduced to ensure that the welfare of the players, officials, fans and all those connected with the game at all levels are protected.

We should safeguard this worldwide treasure called football that we have at our disposal and use it as a catalyst to foster goodness and unity.

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