Before facing Man City in the Premier League early last month, Jurgen Klopp gave a rather cautious pre-match press conference, not wanting to create unnecessary headlines.
But taking issue with a question about Pep Guardiola, the Liverpool manager made his point of view on the Spaniard clear.
“Pep is the best coach in the world,” insisted the German. “I think we would all agree on that. It may be a coincidence that it hasn’t worked out so far in the Champions League.
“But the things he won, the football he plays. If anyone doubts him, I have no idea how that could happen.”
However, when the Spaniard was asked about the praise he had received from his Reds counterpart, there was one thing notably missing from his response.
“I didn’t make a coach to be the best, honestly. I am not,” he told reporters. “Thank you very much, but I’m not. I would like to tell you: “Yes, I am the best”, but I am not.
“If we are successful, I said many times that it is because we were, with my coaching staff, with incredible teams with a lot of money, which the opponents like to hear. I am in the process of learning and enjoying my work. I became a better manager.”
Given the respect between Klopp and Guardiola, it would have been easy enough for the City manager to dismiss that question by doling out exactly the same praise for his German counterpart. However, he chose not to.
And although he denied being the best coach in the world, he admitted that he wishes he could say he is.
By contrast, Klopp has no interest in such labels. He lets his team do the talking on the pitch and prefers the Reds to be perceived as discreet opposition to City’s millions.
However, with Guardiola once again failing to win the Champions League with Man City, with his departure at the hands of Real Madrid, despite leading 5-3 on aggregate heading into the 90th minute of the second leg in the Bernabéu, arriving in the shadow of Klopp leading Liverpool to a third final in five years, coincidence or not, perhaps the Etihad is not the place we should be looking to when the discussion about the best manager in the world arises.
The Balearic has boasted, as he himself has acknowledged, of ‘incredible teams with a lot of money’. However, it seems that money cannot buy you the European Cup.
In his 10 seasons as manager since the last time he won the Champions League in his penultimate season with Barcelona back in 2010/11, first with Bayern Munich and then with Man City after leaving the Camp Nou, he has only come to a final (lost last year against Chelsea).
Meanwhile, Wednesday night’s loss to Real Madrid saw Guardiola suffer semi-final elimination for the fifth time since they were last crowned European champions, losing to Chelsea in 2012, Real Madrid in 2014, Barcelona in 2015. and Atletico Madrid in 2016.
The Champions League is the prize Man City and Guardiola have longed for most since he took over at the Etihad in 2016, but he suffered a round of 16 exit in his first season before being knocked out in the quarter-finals three years in a row before the last. . final appearance of the year.
He might be chasing a 10th league title as manager this season, but the magic touch has been a bit lacking in Europe. And given that his contract at Man City expires next summer, he may have to concede defeat in his efforts to hand over the Champions League to the Etihad.
Now compare that to Klopp’s own resume, where his Mainz side won promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history in 2003/04, winning back-to-back titles with Borussia Dortmund at the expense of German heavyweights Bayern. Munich before leading took them to the Champions League final, and then ended Liverpool’s 30-year wait to be crowned champions of England, having already won the European Cup at Anfield.
Creating his own incredible sides without the same riches, his achievements surely surpass Guardiola’s. And if he can lead the Reds to an unprecedented quadruple this season, the German will write his name in managerial immortality.
Guardiola recently took issue with Klopp’s earlier praise of his Liverpool players after Mohamed Salah was crowned FWA Footballer of the Year, telling reporters: “Jurgen said, they have the best goalkeeper, the second best second goalkeeper in the world, the best central defender, the best holding midfielder, the best striker, then it is normal that they win all the awards”.
But they are not the best goalkeepers, central defenders, best holding midfielders and best strikers that Liverpool have, they are also the best manager. And that’s why they now find themselves looking to collect all the cups in May, as Guardiola and Man City are bound to watch the Champions League final from home once again. Better luck next year, Pep.