Chelsea determined to land Pep after night of glory
Published 23:00 28/05/11 By Paul Smith
Pep Guardiola inspired a football masterclass as Barcelona proved they are the best team in the world last night.
It was their second Champions League triumph under Guardiola’s astute management.
And the 40-year-old Catalan hero will now face a massive personal dilemma.
Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s billionaire owner, is prepared to break the bank to land Guardiola as his club’s next boss.
Abramovich, who has made winning Europe’s premier club trophy his Holy Grail, is determined to get his man.
On the evidence of this night of Wembley glory, you can see why. Even though Guardiola has signed a 12-month extension to his current contract with Barcelona, rumours are rife that his head is being turned by Chelsea’s interest.
He added fuel to the fire in the countdown to this final by refusing to discuss his long-term future at the Nou Camp and commit himself beyond last night’s epic encounter.
And even though Guardiola insisted after Barcelona lifted the trophy that he would "stay another year, then we'll see", he could still be persuaded by the challenge of Chelsea.
Guardiola has told close friends that he wants to manage in England.
Only two clubs interest him – Chelsea and Manchester United. He has deep reservations about stepping into the United job when Ferguson finally steps down because he feels it’s a no-win situation.
Dutchman Guus Hiddink, head coach of Turkey, is not Abramovich’s prime target.
United gave it their best shot against Guardiola's side and tried to present the Spanish champions with a different set of problems to when they cruised past United 2-0 in the 2009 Final.
For spells United were more competitive this time.
Overall, though, the Premier League champions were well beaten – again.
Pedro fired the Catalans ahead on 27 minutes. Wayne Rooney hauled United back into the final with a clinical finish seven minutes later.
But in the second half, Lionel Messi exploited United’s tiring defence to score one and set one up for David Villa.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson admitted: “This is the best team we have ever played.
“They are at the peak in this cycle of their team
“We were beaten by the best team in Europe and there is no shame in that.
“Tonight was their night.”
England international defender Rio Ferdinand said: “We gave it better shot than two years ago.
“We believed we could win after we drew level, but they hit us with a sucker punch after half-time.
“A couple of their goals were preventable, but I have never faced a team that keeps the ball like they do.”
United skipper Nemanja Vidic added: “They played very well. But we wanted to win, we feel disappointed.
“Barcelona played some good football and they had more chances than we did and we have to say they were better than us.
“If you look at it, we have never played a team in the past like Barcelona, they played good football and deserved to win.
“We tried to press high and in some parts of the game we did well. The goals we lost, we didn’t do what we have to do to close their players down. When they have time on the ball, they can make the final pass and that is what they did.”
Amid the bitter disappointment of losing this spectacular finale to the European club season lay a brutal reality in the shape of how good Guardiola’s team really is.
Graeme Souness, skipper of Liverpool’s European conquering team of the Eighties, said: “Barcelona are a special team, the best I have seen. How to stop them? No-one has the answer to that question.
“United won the Premier League, but they were made to look average tonight.”