Josep Guardiola is only one match away from claiming a second UEFA Champions League title in three seasons, yet the FC Barcelona coach is already thinking about his side's place in history.
Long since assured of his berth in the Barcelona pantheon having played in their 1992 European Champion Clubs' Cup-winning side at Wembley, coach Guardiola has guided them to the Liga title in each of his three seasons in charge. Add to that the prospect of more European glory against Manchester United FC on Saturday and it is little surprise the 40-year-old has become used to fielding questions about just how good his side is – although he does not believe anyone will ever be able to offer a definitive verdict.
"I've been asked this many times and it's impossible to answer," Guardiola said. "There have been many great teams over many years of history: [Johan] Cruyff's Ajax, [Arrigo] Sacchi's Milan, [Alfredo] Di Stéfano's Real Madrid, Pelé's Santos. I didn't see those teams so it's impossible for me to compare; each period is different.
"If for the next five, 10 and 15 years some people remember us for the way we're playing right now, that would be hugely successful. We want to win and so do United, but the idea that in the future people are talking about us… If they say that 'I once saw that team' we'd be delighted but to say we are the best is not true."
Despite the protestations of Guardiola – who became only the sixth man to win the trophy as both player and coach with the 2009 final victory against United in Rome – his charges have been in imperious form this season, losing just twice en route to their 21st league title and suffering only one UEFA Champions League defeat, although that did come in north London in the round of 16 first leg at Arsenal FC.
"The way we've played this year has kept people happy and I don't think it will change anything whether we win or lose against United in that sense but we are very proud to be back here in a second final in three years and to be playing against such a historic team," the coach added. "To be sitting next to Alex Ferguson will be an honour. It has always been a great privilege to sit with him so we will try to enjoy the show and compete as well as we can."
Guardiola has been a central figure in many of Barcelona's biggest successes of the past two decades, not least that Wembley triumph against UC Sampdoria 19 years ago, whose importance he acknowledged: "It's always hard to win the first title; you have to break the psychological barrier and that was crucial."
He admits, however, that such events only reveal their true importance in hindsight: "Beforehand you never feel you are playing a great moment. You try to help your players do that but you only know after if they've been great moments or not."
While Guardiola knows Barcelona inside out, he also acknowledges their final opponents have a proud heritage of their own. "Manchester United are the club of Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson and they have gone through lots of things, like the plane accident in Munich," he said. "When you are lucky enough to play against opponents like United, with history behind them, you have to feel fortunate."
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