Competition
  • Champions League

Zidane, Pellegrini, Guardiola and Simeone

I've always had it very clear that football, above all else, is about the players. That was borne out in both of this week's Champions League matches. Cristiano's performance enabled Real Madrid to continue; and conversely, Messi's dip in form contributed to Barça’s elimination. But ahead of today’s draw, we have dedicated today’s front cover of AS to the four coaches, for their level, their personality and because they were once players themselves. Their task is ensuring their best players get as close as possible to their own standards of excellence, as well as maintaining the right kind of atmosphere during the working day so that every member of the squad feels comfortable and at ease.

Four different personalties and one enticing prospect. Just imagine if Manchester City draw Bayern? Guardiola has already committed to the City job for next season. More than just giving his word, it’s official. City still haven’t guaranteed their place in the next edition of the Champions League, so if Bayern knock them out, Guardiola would be effectively knocking himself out of next year’s tournament. On the other hand, what if Pellegrini’s City eliminate Bayern?!

Then there’s Simeone, widely considered the architect of a highly-efficient Atlético, and Zidane, who is hoping to secure his own place among Europe’s elite managers after winning the ‘match ball’ against Wolfsburgo. How things have changed in football! It seemed Barça would go on to collect the treble and now, it wouldn’t be unfeasible if they surrendered the league to Atlético – or even Madrid. The latter appeared to be enduring a season full of failures and yet they could still end up lapping up the heady fruits of success. And today there is also the Europa League semi-final draw, and like in the Champions League, half of the remaining teams are Spanish. Let’s hope we’re lucky and none of them cross paths...