Bayern Munich host Arsenal this evening in the second leg of their last sixteen tie in the Champions League but the European champions’ coach has revealed his admiration and respect for Arsene Wenger.
It’s becoming something of a rarity in the modern football landscape for coaches (and players) to be humble, respectful and warm towards their opposition but the class of Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola shines like a light in the dark.
In the Premier League, we have heard this season no end of tongue wagging, posturing and provocation from the likes of Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, and we have seen some indecent and thoroughly obnoxious behavior from Newcastle coach Alan Pardew on the touchline but the likes of Pep Guardiola and his opponent tonight Arsene Wenger offer us respite and nostalgia for a time of respect and sportsmanship.
"He’s a manager with a lot of experience, been with the same club, knows everything of this club, of these players,” Guardiola said of Wenger.
"Arsenal has always been in the Champions League for many, many years. Always qualified, always in the last 16. Every time you look at a team like that, they buy very good players, very good midfield players.”
The Spaniard and former Barcelona manager is class personified – he is humble, shows humility and, most importantly, shows great understanding, compassion and understanding of what the French coach has achieved in North London.
"He worked a lot with young players and they always get better and better. He’s one of the best managers in the world,” he added.
“They built a new stadium. That is not easy, it is expensive. They also sell their most important players to Barcelona, to another club."
It was under Guardiola that former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas returned to the Camp Nou after eight years in London, much to the disappointment of Gunners fans and the club in general – over the last decade Arsenal have indeed sold off a number of the club’s key players.
But the Bayern coach understands the financial restrictions Wenger has dealt with and the subsequent implications on the club’s competitiveness. In fact, one could argue, during his time in Catalonia, Guardiola was one of the direct beneficiaries of Arsenal’s financial conservatism.
Whichever team emerges as the victors of this evening’s clash, both managers must be considered two of the best in the world – Guardiola’s success is well documented but the longevity and continued determination of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal is something rare in the modern game.
He is the longest-serving manager in the Premier League and undoubtedly the most important figure in Arsenal’s history. Whilst nobody is perfect and the club remains a work in progress, Wenger can take pride in the fact that around the world he is and likely will be revered for his achievements on and off the pitch with Arsenal.
More than anything, the grace and humility he shares with his rival tonight that indeed makes his one of the best in the world.
image: © gowestphoto