Pep Guardiola allowed himself a joke at Manchester City’s expense after a thrilling comeback against Aston Villa clinched the Premier League title, claiming he asked Real Madrid how to rescue a seemingly lost cause.
It was Madrid who broke City’s hearts in the Champions League semi-finals this season, recovering from 5-3 down on aggregate heading into the 90th minute of the second leg to remarkably pull off a 6-5 win after extra time.
That trophy remains frustratingly out of reach, but the Premier League is City’s yet again, won by the mighty Etihad Stadium outfit for a fourth time in five seasons.
A stunning 3-2 victory against Villa on Sunday saw City over the line, with Ilkay Gundogan coming off the bench to net a decisive double, sandwiching a fine strike from Rodri.
Villa had led 2-0 and at that stage everything was up for grabs, with Liverpool tantalisingly close to pipping City on the final day. Yet 12 minutes and 22 seconds after City surrendered the second Villa goal to Philippe Coutinho, the game had turned around and the hosts were in front.
Asked how the flurry of goals had come about, Guardiola said: “I called Real Madrid and they gave me good advice, this was the reason why.”
He followed the quip by adding: “No explanation in Madrid, no explanation today. It’s momentum.”
The City celebrations were in full swing on Sunday evening and were set to spill into Monday, with a bus parade planned.
“Tomorrow we can celebrate together in the Manchester streets with cigars and beers,” Guardiola said.
He has backed his players all season, even after the collapse in Madrid, and said the Premier League remains the ultimate measure of their quality.
“When you win the Premier League in this country four times in five seasons, it is because these guys are so, so special,” Guardiola said.
“This game is completely different than the other ones. You have to close something that is so difficult. It’s like serving to win Wimbledon. It’s the most difficult one, the tennis players say that, so it was quite similar today.”
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss said City’s four titles in five years represents, for the coaching staff, “probably the best achievement we have done in our careers”.
“I’m not saying the Premier League is better or more important than the Champions League, but it is the most honest one,” Guardiola said. “The Premier League doesn’t lie. It’s 38 games, away and home. Many problems for all the teams and in the end who wins it’s because of who is the best.
“These guys are legends already. This group of players are absolutely eternal in this club because what we have achieved is so difficult.”
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