Guardiola: I Want a Victory, Not a Homage

Published: 06th May 2015 10:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th May 2015 10:25 AM   |  A+A-

pep-guardiola-AP

Pep Guardiola did not hide his emotions, nor his new allegiances. Tonight the Bayern Munich coach will return to the Nou Camp pitch that he graced as ball boy, midfielder and then the most successful manager in the club's history.

As a player and a manager, he won three European Cups, six La Liga titles, four Spanish Cups and a European Cup-Winners' Cup. He is not merely a symbol of Barcelona's football club, but also of Catalonia, whose parliament presented him with a medal of honour, whose independence he openly supports.

Sitting back in his old chair in the Ricard Maxenchs press room, however, Guardiola made it clear that he was not living in the past.

"I'm not here for a homage," he declared. "I have always been treated well at my home, but we want to knock Barcelona out. It's fantastic to return, I have many memories here after spending so many years here, and it is very special, but now I'm the Bayern coach.

"It's my job to ensure we play well here and in Munich, that's what we're going to try and do."

These two juggernauts met in the Champions League semi-finals two years ago, Bayern eviscerating the Catalans 7-0 on the way to winning the treble, but the presence of -Guardiola magnifies the tie's significance for both sides. His teams inspire awe, and so does he. "He offers so many answers and almost all of them are correct," Andres -Iniesta, the Barcelona and Spain midfielder, said.

Javi Martinez, the Bayern player, said: "I feel like I know much more about football after working with him." Lionel Messi, the talisman of Guardiola's trophy-laden tenure at the Nou Cap, added: "I have kept everything I learnt from him."

Luis Enrique, the Barcelona coach, tried to play down the significance of his former team-mate's return to the Nou Camp, saying: "It's nice for the players to meet Guardiola again, but they know that this game is more important than just that."

However, Carles Rexach, the assistant coach to Johan Cruyff when Guardiola was a player, had a different view. "It will be difficult for everyone involved, and most of all for Pep, who is returning to his first love. But also for our fans, who adore Pep for -everything he gave us. It will be a bath of contradictory sensations for everyone in the stadium."

The man himself made it clear where his loyalties lie. "You have to understand that this is not a normal game for me but I'm here to do my job. I know what we have to do and I'm not distracted for even a minute," Guardiola said.

A German journalist asked if he would celebrate a Bayern goal. "I don't know what I will do, but I haven't decided to not celebrate out of respect for Barca. If my boys score I will feel very happy and I want to win, Barcelona is a very important part of my life, up to now it has been everything, but I've come here to win."

Guardiola's happy demeanour was a far cry from one of his last appearances in the Nou Camp press room in April 2012, when, days after being knocked out of the Cham-pions League by Chelsea, he announced that he was leaving the club, declaring: "I have given everything to the point that I feel empty. The high demands of this club wear you out."

At the end of four years at Barcelona, Guardiola was thinner in body and in hair. He was burned out by a combination of the pressure he was placed under and the pressure he put on himself. His relationship with the board and president Sandro Rosell did not help matters. Rosell never loved Guardiola because he was appointed by his nemesis and predecessor, Joan Laporta.

A year after leaving, Guardiola made his views on Rosell public in an extraordinary tirade, accusing Rosell of trying to drive a wedge between him and his former assistant Tito Vilanova, who passed away from -cancer last year. "I told them I was going 6,000 kilometres away and asked them to leave me in peace,

but they haven't kept their word," Guardiola screamed.

Rosell has gone, but much of the old board remain, including Rosell's vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu, now the president. A more measured character than Rosell, Bartomeu said he would welcome Guardiola back but did not overdo the praise.

"Pep should get the reception he deserves but it should be spontaneous," he said. "We won't organise anything. There will be no video. He comes here with a lot of history, but to try and beat us."

That mission is made harder because of Bayern's injury crisis. Holger Badstuber, David Alaba, Franck Ribery and the top scorer Arjen Robben are all out, while Robert Lewandowski will wear a facial mask after breaking his nose and cheekbone a week ago.

Martinez and Thiago Alcantara will play but have only recently returned from serious injuries which have kept them out for most of the season.

When asked if he would use these losses as an excuse should his team lose the tie, Guardiola's expression changed, his smile gone, replaced with a glare.

"If we complained we wouldn't be Bundesliga champions. If Barcelona win it will be because they deserved to. I have never complained about injuries and I am not about to do it now."

Guardiola was similarly frank when asked what he had planned to stop Messi. "In the state he has been in the last four or five months he is too good, there's no defensive system, no coach, that can stop him," the Bayern manager said. "Of course, you can try and get close to him, put the brakes on him, but talent of that magnitude cannot be defended against."

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