UEFA Champions League 2022-23: Pep Guardiola Uses Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan References To Defend CL Failure

Ahead of Manchester City playing Bayern Munich in the first leg of the quarter-finals on Tuesday, Pep Guardiola's Champions League record came under scrutiny once more.

Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola reacts during a match.

The Champions League is the one trophy that has been out of reach for Manchester City during a decade of dominance in England. (More Football News)

Not even the appointment of Pep Guardiola, who twice won European soccer’s elite competition as a manager with Barcelona, has changed that.

And while around $2 billion has been spent on many of the world’s best players, there are some things, it seems, that even money cannot buy.

As such, it has felt like an increasingly thorny subject for Guardiola, who has cut a frustrated and defensive figure when asked to explain his team’s inability to transfer domestic dominance to European competition.

And ahead of Manchester City playing Bayern Munich in the first leg of the quarterfinals on Tuesday, his Champions League record came under scrutiny once more.

On this occasion, Guardiola tried to put his achievements into context by referencing two of sport’s all-time greats.

“How many Masters has Jack Nicklaus played or majors has he played in his career, in 30-40 years as a golfer? … Eighteen (major) wins. Wow. He loses more than he wins. That is sport. In football, in golf, in basketball.

“Michael Jordan, the best athlete for me in basketball, won 6 NBA titles (in 15 seasons) ... He loses more than he wins.”

Guardiola last won the Champions League in 2011 with a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona that is regarded as possibly the greatest club team ever.

Since then he has coached Bayern and City teams that have been stacked with talent, yet only reached one more final.

That was in 2021 when City lost 1-0 to Chelsea and Guardiola’s tactics were called into question after he left out key midfielders Rodri and Fernandinho.

Chelsea was the underdog for that match, with then-manager Thomas Tuchel having only been in the job for four months.

Tuchel is now in charge of Bayern and his reunion with Pep Guardiola is a fascinating subplot as the man who denied the Catalan his best chance of a third Champions League title.

“I was sad, but I congratulated him and Chelsea for the victory,” Guardiola said Monday. “It happened. I reviewed the game a month later. It was not as bad as I thought, but at the same time it was not at all a good enough performance to win it.”

That loss was the continuation of a theme for City in Europe.

While the Champions League is considered the sternest test in club soccer, Manchester City’s eliminations have generally come against teams it was expected to beat.

Under Pep Guardiola, City has lost to Monaco, Tottenham Hotspur and Lyon.

His team was knocked out by Liverpool in 2018, despite ending the season 25 points ahead of its Premier League rival.

Manchester City was 19 points clear of Chelsea in 2021.

Even last year, Manchester City was the favorite to beat eventual winners Real Madrid and led 5-3 on aggregate going into the 90th minute of the semifinal second-leg game at the Bernabeu, only to lose 6-5 on aggregate after extra time.

Guardiola has been accused of overthinking the competition and the scrutiny will continue to grow with each passing year that he fails to win it again.

“I understand,” he said. “We tried last season, the season before. We tried three seasons ago. Every single season, but there are teams that you face that are also good and they want to win.”

Despite taking over a Bayern team that had just won the Champions League in 2013, Guardiola was unable to win the trophy in three years with the German giant.

Bayern Munich won it again in 2020.

Tuchel was hired in March to replace Julian Nagelsmann and gets an unexpected shot at winning the competition for a second time, following his triumph with Chelsea.

Even though the German got the better of Guardiola on that occasion, he admitted Monday that he has struggled to sleep ahead of the latest meeting.

“I will try to go to bed early. I just hope I will be able to sleep,” Tuchel said. “The best preparation is sleep but sometimes it is hard to get that sleep when you’re thinking about things.

“This morning I woke up really early and I just decided to go to the training ground because I couldn’t get back to sleep. I just kept thinking about the match.”