Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand believes Pep Guardiola did not need to lead his side to an historic treble to put himself in contention for “the greatest” football manager of all time.
Rodri’s 68th-minute strike in Saturday’s 1-0 Champions League final victory over Inter Milan was enough to secure the Spanish manager a 12th major trophy with City and anoint him as the first manager to secure two European trebles, having also accomplished the feat with Barcelona in 2009.
Champions League winner Ferdinand heaped praise on the City boss using an unlikely artistic analogy to describe what he feels is Guardiola’s unmatched vision.
He told BT Sport: “Does he need this game to be recognised as one of the greatest, if not the greatest? We’re all I think in agreeance, he doesn’t even need it because of the way he sees the games. He has his teams painting pictures like we’ve never seen in my lifetime.
“(Like Picasso), Michaelangelo, however you want to do it.”
Ferdinand was equally certain Guardiola’s men, who needed several spectacular stops from Ederson to secure the European title, would never be forgotten, adding they were now: “Immortal. Statues galore.
“Listen, this team have played a brand of football that around the world is looked at, is admired. This has been a project and a process for a long time, for many years now, Pep Guardiola coming in. But these players have produced some football that is out of this world. Individually but as a collective this team will go down in history obviously.
“They deserve to. A fantastic team and they’ve dug deep when they needed to, and they’ve been able to play both sides of the game. I think that’s been the difference between this Manchester City team to past ones. They can pass, they can play the fairytale football but also when need be they can dig in, roll their sleeves up and fight through games as well. Balance is everything in this team.”
Ferdinand’s fellow pundit Joleon Lescott was part of the Manchester City side under Roberto Mancini that secured a club-first Champions League berth in 2011.
He observed a change in Guardiola over the course of a Premier League season that saw City looking up at Arsenal in the table before securing a third consecutive title and the FA Cup at the campaign’s close.
He told BT Sport: ” I think he’s been the most open and honest this season. I think it was the Spurs game when he came out and said he doesn’t recognise the team. No one’s seeing this outcome in the first half of the season. No one’s seeing a treble.
“Then he outed Kevin De Bruyne and wanted more, he did the same thing with Kyle Walker. So the relationship you have with a group of players, you can only do that if you are so close and you are genuine about your connection with a group of players.”
Cesc Fabregas, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, recalled the days the City boss was untested in England, even drawing doubters who wondered if he could recreate his success in the English game.
Since joining City in 2016 Guardiola has led the side to five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, four League Cups and a Champions League.
Fabregas told the broadcaster: “He’s a very tough manager to play for because he demands the absolute best, but the day-to-day you have fun because he has a philosophy that every player dreams of.
“We first thought, not me because I knew the way he worked first-hand, but that when he came to England he would find it difficult. Can he bring this type of play to the country?
“And everyone doubted him. But he’s a very special man, a very special person, a very special manager and I am delighted for him.”