Pep Guardiola fires back at Man City critics after Champions League exit


Pep Guardiola disputed the suggestion that his Manchester City side lacked character and insisted that their Champions League exit was not a failure.

In a passionate performance facing the media in person for the first time since their heartbreaking defeat to Real Madrid, the coach spoke about his pride at being in charge of his group of players and having owners who do not judge his success by trophies. While he said that he would accept their semi-final exit as a failure – particularly given the nature of their dramatic collapse – Guardiola completely disagreed with the suggestion.

Another painful exit has left many wondering if City can ever win the Champions League, and their manager admitted that he could not answer whether they could or would. However, he launched a lengthy defense of his side that addressed much of the criticism leveled at them since Wednesday and also sought to place their achievements ahead of nearly every other club in Europe.

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“I’m not saying it is a failure or not. People say if this group of players won’t win the Champions League they will be failures. I accept it,” he began in an emotional statement. “I completely disagree, in sport we know how difficult everything’s but I accept it. I’m not going to make a debate about who is right or wrong. I say as a club, as a feeling that we have, we start and try to do it.Of course we are sad.

“We didn’t talk because everyone was sad that we couldn’t do it. Above me, the players wanted to play in the final of the Champions League but for this club to compete against Real Madrid the way we did it is a joy I won’t forget one week ago the way we played against them, how close we were to making it – wow. But we could not do it, we had to go there and make chances. We were good, but not good enough because I give a lot of credit to what the other team are.

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“Congratulations to Liverpool and Madrid because they are in the final because they deserve to be there. We were close – they know it, we know it – but what is important is we are going to try again next season, and then again, and in the Premier League. In the Carabao Cup next season we want to go further than we did this season.

“This is how we became this club. Name all the clubs in Europe that are there every year and in the last years we are there. Sometimes it is not possible. In our lives, in football, sometimes you do everything and you don’ don’t achieve it.

“What is the problem with that? The next day, try to do it, celebrate the good moments, the bad moments are more sad than usual, and continue to do it. I think this club is good for this.”

Guardiola teams have been prone to collapse in the Champions League knockout rounds, conceding bursts of goals with Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich and at City in previous years as his teams have struggled to react positively to setbacks. A glance at the scoreline on Wednesday would suggest a repeat, and some extrapolated from that City lack the characters on the pitch to be able to turn around bad situations.

The City boss rubbed those claims though, pointing out that they could not possibly know the mentality of the players and providing a more straightforward explanation for their defeat.

“There is no time for mental [issues between the first and second goal],” he said, “it was 45 seconds later. There was no time to fall down.

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“All the data and analysis, how do you control the emotion of the players? Tell me in the data how the players feel in that moment, how do you feel? Do you think they want to lose?

“They want to stop the cross, but it is deflected from one player, goes to Rodrygo, scores again. It’s football. What happened – it’s football. It happened and now we have to accept it.

“You know how many times we talk about that and guys you have to score goals and chances. Now people say it’s lack of character. Lack of character? What happens if Jack Grealish scores those two goals? What is the character? In Atletico Madrid when [Angel] Correa shot and Eddy saves, now its character? When Correa scores it’s not character?

“When [Thibaut] Courtois put his feet here and it deflected for a corner and away from the goal that is not a character for the team. It is the same for ex-football players, not for you. Margins like this we have to handle it and maybe we have to have more time and after kick-off we have to know, a long ball from Eddie.

“You play with emotions, and emotions are uncontrollable. What happened here we scored at 3-1 and in that moment we were hot and Madrid were down. I was there. One minute later, throw-in, der, der, der, 3-2, not even two or three minutes to maybe get the momentum.

“Football in this competition is momentum, the players in the Premier League, they know they have another game but in the Champions League it’s a question of time. The goal happened immediately.

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“Madrid deserved it because they are in the final but if you deserved to score more goals, we had taken the chances and defend better the first goal which we didn’t defend properly. That’s why I never blame things, always you can do better and you work for that. And that is why for next season if we are here together, and do it, that is what we have to learn. Maybe it will help us.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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