Pep Guardiola has learned winning titles is not as life-changing as he expected and told potential first-time Premier League champion Jack Grealish his happiness should be the priority.
Guardiola’s Manchester City head into the final day of the league season a point ahead of Liverpool, knowing victory against Aston Villa – £100million man Grealish’s boyhood club – would clinch the championship.
Unlike for Grealish, though, this is far from Guardiola’s first title triumph, winning LaLiga nine times with Barcelona as a player and coach, then adding a hat-trick of Bundesliga crowns at Bayern Munich.
Guardiola is closing on a fourth Premier League success in six years since joining City, but he revealed two days before the Villa match how his perspective of such victories was changed by his first as a player.
“Before winning the first title, I thought it would be the most incredible moment in our lives,” Guardiola told a news conference. “But the day after you feel, ‘oh, this is all it’s about?’
“Because the day after, the sun rises and people start to demand more and more. The satisfaction is there, of course, but after one, two, three days, it’s already forgotten. It has to be like that.
“That’s why it’s nice, because there’s a lot of work behind and we have incredible focus to try to do it, but at the end it does not change many lives winning or losing.
It’s all in our hands..Looking forward to the game next weekend pic.twitter.com/116WJTBSJo
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) May 15, 2022
“We are going to try. This is the most important thing, to be ourselves and do what we have to do to be proud after the game.
“I think people forgot most of the time: football is a game. A game means unpredictable things, luck, unlucky, a thousand things you cannot control.
“The way we play and the quality of the players we have, we are most of the time in the position to win, because we play to win and are most of the time closer, closer, closer, but there are aspects you cannot control, even if you want to.
“It’s a game, football is a game. Something can happen – that’s why you have to put it in the right measure.
“We are going to try. Of course, we have incredible desire to win; if we can do it, we will be incredibly happy. But after one or two or three days of celebration with our people, we’ll continue and start again.”
It was a theme Guardiola returned to later when asked what victory might mean to Grealish, who left Villa last year having won only a Championship play-off final.
“For him, who has never won a Premier League, it must be so exciting, so important, but now he will realise what I said before,” his manager said. “The day after, ‘oh, everything was about that?’
“He will be happy he has won, but my advice to him is try to be happy as much as possible playing football. This is more important than winning titles. Be happy doing your job.
“After two or three days, you feel, ‘all the effort for that?’ Okay, it’s good, the name in your curriculum vitae, but no more than that.
“What’s important is if he feels happy here. If he is comfortable, getting better, getting better, that’s the most important thing.”
1-20 – Based on our prediction model, what percentage chance does each team have of finishing in a specific position come the end of the Premier League season? Discuss. pic.twitter.com/LAUjz7lQj7
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 20, 2022
In an entertaining meeting with the media, it was put to Guardiola that this would be a special title for him, too, as the first he has won on his own terms at the Etihad Stadium.
Twice his City were made champions by defeats for rivals Manchester United, while their final-day 2018-19 celebrations came after a win away at Brighton and Hove Albion.
But Guardiola was not convinced, sarcastically replying: “Oh, so nice, so nice. Yeah, good. I would prefer winning two days ago, in Wolves for example.”
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