Man City Club World Cup win would last a lifetime — Guardiola
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said lifting the Club World Cup on Friday would be something his players can cherish forever as he played down the importance of the English champions’ patchy Premier League form.
City won only one of their previous six league games prior to flying out to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup, but easily swept aside Japan’s Urawa Reds 3-0 to reach the final.
Guardiola’s men are strong favourites to win a fifth trophy in 2023 against Brazil’s Fluminense in Jeddah.
No European side has lost in the Club World Cup in 21 games since 2012.
“It’s so difficult to come here. To win the [Copa] Libertadores, the Champions League, both competitions are really tough,” said Guardiola when asked if victory could spark a recovery in City’s Premier League.
“[The Club World Cup] is something that remains forever. Premier League this season, next season, it will be there. I don’t know if we’ll come back to play a final for the World Cup.”
Fluminense are also in the final for the first time having claimed their first Copa Libertadores last month.
The Brazilians relied on the experience of an ageing core of players to get through their semi-final against Egypt’s Al Ahly 2-0 thanks to two late goals.
Felipe Melo broke the competition record to become the oldest outfield player at 40, while 37-year-old goalkeeper Fabio kept his side in the game against the African champions.
Melo called for more respect after an article in an English newspaper referred to Fluminense as a side fit for “Soccer Aid” — an annual charity match in England played by former professionals and celebrities.
But the former Brazilian international conceded Fluminense cannot give City the same chances that Al Ahly squandered, even if the English giants will be missing the injured Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.
“We cannot make mistakes as in the previous games because these athletes, if they find a gap, they will take advantage,” said Melo. “City put together the best players, that is why the last five years they are at the top.
“We have to work hard, dream and believe. Enjoy the moment to seize the opportunity.”
Fluminense Coach Fernando Diniz’s daring approach has earned comparisons to Guardiola, but he has rejected those claims.
In contrast to Guardiola’s strict positional game, Diniz has risen to fame thanks to a more anarchic style that has its roots in the skills Brazilians learn playing street football as kids.
“We both like playing a beautiful game, but the way of construction between our team and City is different. Their budget is also different,” said Diniz, who is also temporarily in charge of the Brazil national team.
“This is the most unique match when it comes to world tournaments. We will be playing one of the greatest teams in the history of football and one of the greatest coaches, so it is a great challenge for us.
“We’ve been dreaming about this since I came to Fluminense.”
Guardiola could become the first coach to win the Club World Cup with three different clubs.
The 52-year-old has already won the competition three times, twice in charge of Barcelona and once during his spell at Bayern Munich.
But Guardiola is taking nothing for granted, having been impressed by Diniz’s methods.
“This is the fourth time I’m here. I realise this competition, against South American [teams], it is so difficult,” he added.
“The way they play we never face [it]. It is not positional, they move a lot. We have to impose our rhythm, our positional game as much as possible.”