Where does Pep Guardiola rank among football’s greatest managers?
Man City manager Pep Guardiola

Where does Pep Guardiola rank among football’s greatest managers?

Pep Guardiola has cemented his status as one of the best managers of all-time by winning the Treble with Manchester City.

City’s victory over Inter last Saturday earned Guardiola a third Champions League title and a second personal treble. He is the fourth coach to win at least three Champions League or European Cup trophies – along with Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti (who has four) and Zinedine Zidane – and the first to complete two trebles.

While it is difficult to compare across eras due to the changing nature of the game, is it time to anoint Guardiola as the greatest of the modern age?

To find out, we have analysed domestic and continental results since the European Cup was rebranded as the Champions League in 1992-93.

How many trophies has Guardiola won?

Guardiola has lifted 27 major trophies since getting his first top job as Barcelona boss in 2008-09.

The 52-year-old has won the league title in 11 of his 14 seasons as a top-flight manager, including three out of a possible four at Barca, three out of three at Bayern and five out of seven at Manchester City.

Added to this, Guardiola has won three Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups and 10 domestic cups – two Copa del Reys, two DfB-Pokals, two FA Cups and four EFL Cups.

Guardiola’s trophy haul compares favourably with any manager since 1992-93, including Manchester United’s serial winner Sir Alex Ferguson (24) and the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho (21).

However, it is his rate of success that really sets him apart, with his collection having come across 14 seasons as opposed to 21 for Ferguson and over 19 for Mourinho.

The Spanish supremo has gone only one full campaign without silverware in 2016-17, which was his first in charge of Manchester City. At the time, some critics argued that his possession-based style would not translate well to the Premier League.

How does Guardiola compare with other top coaches?

Guardiola has dominated domestic football in record-breaking fashion since replacing Frank Rijkaard as Barcelona manager in June 2008.

His teams have earned a staggering 1,255 points from 520 matches in La Liga, the Bundesliga and the Premier League at an average of 2.41 per game.

This ratio is comfortably the highest of any manager to have taken charge of 100 matches in Europe’s top five leagues since 1992-93. Ex-Real Madrid boss Zidane (2.24) is next on the list, ahead of Antonio Conte (2.17) and Ferguson (2.16).

Guardiola’s record is almost as impressive in the Champions League, despite him going 12 years without winning it between 2011 and 2023.

His three titles are behind only Ancelotti, who has won it four times (twice each with AC Milan and Real Madrid), while City’s 4-0 thrashing of Ancelotti’s Madrid in this year’s semi-final second leg made him just the third manager to amass 100 match wins after his Italian counterpart and Ferguson.

With a record 10 semi-final appearances under his belt, Guardiola has the highest win percentage among managers with at least 50 Champions League matches to their name.

Guardiola’s teams at Barcelona, Bayern and Manchester City have all been good to watch, averaging 2.51 goals per game in league and Champions League matches.

At the same time, the 52-year-old’s possession-based style allows his opponents very few opportunities to score, with his teams having conceded only 0.79 goals per game over the past 15 years. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta – a former assistant to Guardiola at City – said in a recent interview that his countryman would describe himself as ‘the most defensive manager in the world’ because of the way he tries to control the ball.

Guardiola’s attacking and defensive numbers are the best of any manager to have taken charge of 150 games in Europe’s big five leagues and the Champions League. He is ahead of former Barcelona and Spain manager Luis Enrique for goals scored per game (2.36), while Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is a fraction behind on goals conceded (0.80).

How much of Guardiola’s success is down to managing the best teams?

The caveat to Guardiola’s unparalleled achievements is that he has taken over at winning teams with healthy transfer budgets.

Barcelona finished third in La Liga in the season before his arrival in 2008 but they had won the league and Champions League only two years earlier in 2006, while Bayern were coming off the back of winning the treble under Jupp Heynckes in 2013. Manchester City, meanwhile, had won two Premier League titles pre-Guardiola although they were far from established as a European superpower.

In terms of spending, Guardiola ranks second only to Jose Mourinho for money paid out in transfer fees by managers since 1992-93. The City boss has spent 1.79 billion euros in total, according to Transfermarkt, compared with Mourinho’s 1.85 billion.

Guardiola has preferred to spend heavily on fewer players as opposed to bringing lots of new faces in. He has spent an average of 24.2 million euros on 74 players, compared with Mourinho’s 15.9 million on 116 arrivals.

While it is clear that Guardiola has had plenty of funds behind him at City and his previous clubs, he has bought wisely and improved many of those players. The likes of Nathan Ake and John Stones are prime examples – since arriving as centre-backs for large sums from Bournemouth and Everton respectively, both have gone on to flourish at City and excel in a multitude of roles.

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