Guardiola praises Pochettino as an elite manager despite lack of league titles
- ‘You can be a top manager without titles,’ says Guardiola
- City into Champions league last 16 if they draw with or beat PSG
Pep Guardiola has insisted that Mauricio Pochettino is an elite manager despite having never won a league title in a 12-year, four-club career.
Pochettino is one of the favourites to succeed Ole Gunnar Solskjær as permanent manager at Manchester United, who have said an interim will be appointed until the close season. Pochettino has won only the Coupe de France and the country’s equivalent of the Community Shield and Guardiola was asked whether the Argentinian – or anyone – could be considered elite without a major trophy.
“You can be a top manager without titles, of course,” Manchester City’s manager said before hosting Pochettino’s Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday. “The managers who have the chance to win titles are at top top clubs with good investments and exceptional players. Otherwise – it is impossible to win. That doesn’t mean the managers in the Championship or in the Premier League but outside the top six cannot be excellent managers in tactics, and communication, leading the team, as human beings. It’s not necessary to win titles to be a top manager.”
Guardiola believes that Pochettino, who has also managed Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham is improving. “I’m pretty sure the managers get better every year,” he said. “Every season we go through you have a lot of learning; I’m pretty sure he’s an excellent manager.”
Asked what challenges Pochettino’s sides offer, he said: “It’s completely different [each time] due to them being from different countries, having different players, shapes. Even with the same manager and same team it can be different from one year to another.”
City need a point from their penultimate Group A game to reach the knockout phase. “I had the feeling every season is tougher to qualify for the last 16,” Guardiola said. “Opponents, managers, players: tougher and tougher. Tomorrow we have a chance to qualify and if we do that it would be so good for the club and players.”
City lost September’s reverse fixture 2-0, with Lionel Messi scoring a first goal for PSG after joining in the summer. Guardiola, who previously managed the forward at Barcelona, was asked what the best way is to try to stop him.
“It is so difficult,” said Guardiola. “Sometimes when he has the ball he doesn’t know what he has to do next. It also happens with Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Ángel di María: all four are in the same team and each could be a star around the world. I’m happy he’s [Messi] still playing at this level and it will be nice to face him again and everyone knows the quality and personality that PSG and their players have.”
Jack Grealish faces a fitness test but City will be without Kevin De Bruyne, who has Covid. Ilkay Gündogan, who missed the match at PSG, is available and is expecting a battle with Marco Verratti in midfield, the Italian having starred in Paris.
“He had a great game,” Gündogan said. “Unfortunately I was not able to play because of injury but watched it at home and I totally agree he did really well. He didn’t lose any balls. It feels he is under pressure from one, two, three opponents and is still able to choose the right solution for every action.
“We will be ready to face him again and are going to face similar qualities again. From my experience, playing a similar position where it always gets tighter and tighter – there is not much space in the centre of the game – these kinds of situations are the hardest and how he deals with these are quite impressive.
“For us it is how we want to play: control possession and create chances and I have no doubt if we are able to do that the best way, with the right amount of patience as well, that we are able to play a really good game and get the three points.”