Pep Guardiola will become the first manager in history to win the Treble twice if his Manchester City side beat Inter Milan to lift the Champions League trophy on Saturday.
Having already achieved the holy grail of league title, domestic cup and European glory with Barcelona in 2009, Guardiola and his City players are one win away from becoming the 10th team to ever achieve the feat.
But, win or lose in Istanbul on Saturday, Guardiola is already the greatest coach football has ever known.
Not because he wins things – 16 major trophies and counting – but because he has changed football.
I recently met up with one of Europe’s most coveted young coaches and the conversation turned to what made the 52-year-old Spaniard special.
“Pep gave an instruction to Joao Cancelo,” the coach told me. “I heard it and all I could think was: ‘I know what you are about to do and I can’t defend against it.'”
‘Light years ahead of the rest’
Former France, Arsenal and Barcelona striker Thierry Henry recently told Guardiola he is “the greatest manager of all time”. Others have a similar view.
Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho says he can convince you that what he tells you is what is going to happen in a match. Then gives you all the information you need to deal with the situation.
“The way I see football now… I’d never, ever seen it like that before I met him,” he said.
Recalling the team talk before Barcelona’s 2011 Champions League final success against Manchester United, midfielder Javier Mascherano said that as Guardiola spoke, it was as if he was referring to a game that they were playing there and then.
He said: “You shut your eyes and you were out there in the middle of the action. During the match I was thinking: ‘I’ve seen this already. Pep has already told me about it.’
“Everything that he said would happen, happened as he said it would.”
Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan describes him as a “genius who reads the game and covers every situation imaginable”.
According to the late Johan Cruyff, from the moment Guardiola took charge at Barcelona in 2008, all he wanted to do was, “make football better, take his team to another level”. Former Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli has called him “the coach with the most imagination in football”.
He has an ability to get the very last drop out of his team and a ruthless, dispassionate willingness to discard players unable to give him total commitment.
Those qualities, matched by the standard of his players, put him light years ahead of the rest.