Pep Guardiola's Motivational Video Mishap and the Path to the 2023 Champions League Final

Pep Guardiola's
Pep Guardiola's

In the days before the 2009 Champions League final, Santi Pardo, a Spanish journalist and video editor, received a text message from Pep Guardiola, the coach of Barcelona at the time.

“I want you to make me a motivational video for the players so that we win the Champions League.” Santi made a video for him, which became legendary, that featured performances by each and every player in the Barça squad in the 2008/09 season, with the music from the movie Gladiator playing in the background.

The video ended with the song that became the team’s season anthem: Viva La Vida of Coldplay.

The day before the final in Rome against Manchester United, Pep and his team watched the video and got excited. “As soon as I saw it I thought for sure we’d win the Champions League,” said quartermaster Chama Corvier in Pep’s Barcelona documentary Take the Ball, Pass the Ball.

However, the video turned out to be very moving, too moving.
Less than 24 hours after the premiere of the motivational film in front of Pep’s team, Pep’s players watched it and were moved to tears. “We entered the dressing room. They showed us the video and we all left the dressing room with tears in our eyes,” said Victor Valdes, Barcelona goalkeeper at the time.

Thierry Henry, a Barca player that season, added: “We didn’t know what would happen. They put us in a room, and there was a screen. Then Pep asked us to stand before the screen, and we waited. The music of Gladiator started and we saw our whole way to the final, the sad moments, the good moments, the difficulties— It was strong, maybe too strong!”.

“As a motivational tool it was almost a disaster!” concluded Manuel Astiarte, Pep Guardiola’s assistant coach. “In the first ten minutes of the game, if it wasn’t for Victor Valdes – we would have conceded twice.

Barcelona came to their senses, winning 0–2 with a purposeful display of their tactical and technical superiority, and Pep Guardiola admitted his mistake.

He did not make an emotional video in his next Champions League final as a coach. Barcelona won the 2011 Champions League, the last Champions League final won by Pep. This is the last final he reached in the 9 years that followed.

The story of the 2023 Champions League final, which will be held this Saturday, is multi-layered and complex. Still, it is also a story about the most excellent coach today – Guardiola. He is a coach who is winning titles at a historic rate, who learns from every mistake he made in his life and his teams produce almost perfect football. He reaches his second Champions League final with Manchester City, after quite a few failures in the Champions League, being a clear favourite against Inter Milan.

Manchester City was bought in 2008 by a group of investors from the United Arab Emirates who reportedly paid at least £210 Billion. The team is currently managed by the holding company City Football Group(CFG)Based in the United Arab Emirates. The group is used as a washing machine to whiten the image of Abu Dhabi – the polluting principality and serial human rights violator – which cheats and cheats its rivals, and against which more than 115 charges have been filed by the Premier League for violations of the Financial Fair Play regulation.

However, it also proves that big money invested only makes you a historic football team if you have an iconic historic coach.
Pep Guardiola has not won the Champions League for more than a decade and has received much criticism, but the Champions League is not a measure for him.

He claims that this is a tournament where one game can destroy an entire season; therefore, success in the league is more important to him as a coach and the team. “The Premier League is the most important competition because it’s 10-11 months, every week,” he said recently.

He won the English League 5 times in the last 6 years.
A few years ago, he was asked if he was lucky to win the Champions League with Barcelona? He answered “yes”. “I was fortunate that when I was there, I had wonderful players,” he said. “I had great players in Munich as well, and I also have in Manchester, but in Barcelona, I was lucky.”

However, he does not attribute Real Madrid’s success in the Champions League to luck – but to tradition, something that cannot be purchased despite all the money Manchester City has. “They always win this title,” he said of Madrid. “They don’t do it because of luck”.

Pep has also hinted, more than once, that City simply does not have the status that the biggest clubs in Europe have and that they need to work on the status that affects the mentality and psychology of the players.

He knows that within the organisation, his position is secure, but outside the organisation, he will be “judged” on the success or failure of the Champions League. “I don’t agree with it, but I know I will be judged for what I am in the Champions League this season,” he said before the match in the round of 16 against Leipzig.

Milan is one of the most influential cities in the history of football tactics. Inter won with the famous Catenaccio style of play that became, in many ways, the identity of Italian football. Coach Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan was the best pressing team in the world – it revolutionised how teams see and relate to the geometry of the pitch.

It’s not for nothing that Pep Guardiola arranges lunch with Sacchi every time he visits Milan. Many of the elements he puts into his teams are “Italian”, but the story in this final will not be as tactical as it will be about economic differences between the rivals.

Inter Milan advanced to the final of the Champions League after a victory over neighbours Milan. During the matches against Milan, Inter displayed tremendous depth compared to their opponent.

Inter has a salary budget almost 60% larger than that of Milan, and this allowed Inter to come up as a replacement for Romelu Lukaku, the star of the Belgian national team, compared to Milan, who have Divac Origi on the bench, who is not even good enough to be a substitute in the Belgian national team. Money buys quality players, and if economic disparities also play a role in the final, Inter has no chance of winning.

Manchester City brings in almost 2.4 times more than Inter and pays its players nearly 70% more than Inter. Also, Manchester City paid 1.1 billion pounds for the purchase of players in the squad, while Inter spent about 505 million pounds on their team.

As mentioned, the story is not only about the money. The story is about how a bunch of young millionaires are turned into a cohesive team that plays soccer at the highest level in history.

“The hardest thing for me is to bring out the best in people,” said Guardiola a few years ago. “The biggest lie in sports is that everyone should be treated equally. I learned this from the volleyball coach Julio Valasco, who revolutionised the sport in Italy. He told me that everyone is different and doesn’t have to be the same. Everyone should be respected, but you must treat everyone differently to get the best out of everyone.
Therefore, there is a situation where I will take one player to dinner and with another, I will never talk about tactics or the opponents, and with the third, I will only talk privately in my office. What you say to them, how you create the relationship between them, and how you bring them to the field is the most exciting and interesting thing in my job. It’s bringing out the best in people”.

Of course, Pep couldn’t get the best out of all the players he worked with. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a colossal waste of money for Barcelona, ​​but Pep does build simply historical teams that break rivals and shatter records with historic attacking football. “The most beautiful thing that can happen to a football coach is to know how to communicate to your people the way you want them to play,” he once said. “And the most beautiful thing that can happen in a game is to convey to them something that will happen in the tenth minute, and then it really happens. This is the moment when I feel the most complete with myself.” And if he wins the Champions League for the third time, the first time without Messi, he will feel a little more complete with himself.

Alex Dudly
Alex Dudly

published 12:53, 06 June 2023

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