Man City have passed Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona challenge five years ahead of schedule – Joe Bray

Having arrived from Bayern Munich, who have such an influence on the German national team, Guardiola&aposs fingerprints were all over the two best teams in the world. Fast forward seven years, and those two teams have struggled the longer that Guardiola&aposs influence has been absent from their organisation. City, meanwhile, have gone from strength to strength.

Bayern are still dominating the Bundesliga, but not so much in Europe since their 2020 Champions League win, while Germany have exited the last two World Cups at the group stage and lost to England in the last 16 of Euro 2020. Barcelona have played more Europa League football than Champions League recently, with a La Liga title to their name but many financial concerns.

Both sides are looking to return to former glories, and they know they can&apost get Guardiola – at least for another two years. So their solution? Do what Guardiola would do.

Barcelona have signed Eric Garcia, Ferran Torres, Sergio Aguero, Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo from City in the last few years, with Gundogan the most eye-catching of the group having guided the Blues to the treble in the summer. Cancelo&aposs signing gives them the option of playing a traditional right-back or the inverted full-back role that Cancelo pioneered (and others took to a new level).

They have appointed a Guardiola disciple – Xavi – as manager, who combines the Barcelona heritage and forward-thinking tactics that is as close a combination to Guardiola that is possible without appointing the man himself.

Gundogan himself admitted that Barcelona&aposs aim now is to reach the level that City have managed under Guardiola – similar to the heights reached by Barca in that Golden Era under the iconic manager.

There have been maybe two or three teams like City last year at least since Ive been following football,” Gundogan said last week. “Barcelona around 2011, among others.

I am convinced that Xavi is addressing the right things. With us experienced players, there can be a good mix. I believe that we can reach a similar level to City in the next few years.

Back in Germany, a report this week in Bild suggested that Hansi Flick has turned to City in a bid to address his nation&aposs stuttering form. After crashing out of the World Cup before the knock-outs, Germany beat Peru and have then gone four without a win as they compete in friendlies before next summer&aposs home Euros.

Bild report that Flick wants to give Joshua Kimmich the role of an inverted right-back, and has taken direct inspiration from Guardiola. The report says that Flick showed his squad videos of City to illustrate his point, with a particular focus on John Stones&apos marauding role from right-back to midfield.

It would have been unthinkable that Barcelona and Germany would be using the City blueprint to return to the top of the game, even when Guardiola took the reins at the Etihad. Guardiola&aposs influence and transformative tactics have been so effective, though, that the only way to beat City&aposs level is to join it.

Speaking in 2018, two years after taking over, Guardiola declared that City were still miles away from Barcelona&aposs level, back when his City trophy cabinet had just one Carabao Cup in it.

They have won a lot in the past. We are new weve won one title but it is not a [fair] comparison, Guardiola said before a Champions League last-16 second leg with Basel.

It is not good for us comparing [ourselves] with that Barcelona team. That team dominated the last decade, 15 to 20 years with different managers, different players. We have just won the first title. To join this kind of team you have to be there a long time.

If dominating for a decade is the measure of success, then City still have a few years, and a couple more Champions League titles to go to be considered among the greatest.