Pep Guardiola & Thierry Henry Interview On CBS Sports: Haaland, De Bruyne & UCL Glory

Pep Guardiola & Thierry Henry Interview On CBS Sports: Haaland, De Bruyne & UCL Glory

It’s been a month since Manchester City finally purged the once undying demons of perennial Champions League failure in great style by not just winning their first UCL title, but also clinching a historic treble. It might have seemed like an inevitability when City overcame Inter Milan in a seasoned performance in Istanbul. However, in the week leading upto the game, it wasn’t such a foregone conclusion.

When legendary French striker Thierry Henry and the Man City boss Pep Guardiola sat down for an interview for CBS Sports a few days before the final, there was a nervous energy in the room. Seated there were two men who had together been there and done it when it came to winning a continental treble, and yet, the stakes had never seemed higher.

The two discussed all things football, starting from their regard for each other, their relationship at Barcelona, the current Man City squad and Champions League glory.

Henry and Pep’s Relationship

Henry, who was the lynchpin in attack for Pep’s treble winning Barca side of 2008/09, hailed the Spaniard as the best coach in the world. “First and foremost, you improve players, and that’s valuable for me. Secondly, you are creating positions that people down in the future, are going to form players to be able to play in those positions” said the Frenchman.

He cited his own example as to how Pep had pulled him out of the doldrums once by wanting to see “those eyes” back again, despite them leading to Henry having an attitude that he described as being akin to a “son of a b****”. Reminiscing the glory days of that legendary Barca team, Pep reminded Henry of just how good he was himself with his ability to not just score goals, but to also combine with a midfield which had the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi.

The top scorer at the club in his first 2 seasons, Henry bagged an impressive 49 goals in total for Barca, 26 of those coming in his second season when he played on the left wing.

How Pep Has Improved Haaland and City

Erling Haaland has broken all sorts of records in his debut season with Man City, but Henry mentioned that he had noticed a further improvement in the Norwegian’s game, alluding to his better off-the-ball movement as compared to earlier in the season. On asking Pep how he brought about this change, the City boss called Haaland a “machine”.

“In his first season, he has exceeded all expectations”, said Pep. “Of course he can improve his connections, but he is only 22-23. I remember Abidal, when he was 27 to 29 years old, I said he had improved his build up play a lot in the last years, becoming one of the best central defenders”.

In previous seasons, despite winning several domestic trophies, City never quite went the distance in Europe and at times looked like they missed a prolific centre forward to convert the heaps of chances they often produced. But with Haaland in the mix, Pep reiterated the fact that his teammates are looking to find him and his runs into the box rather than seeking other alternatives.

However, despite all the praise, in typical Pep fashion, he calls for Haaland to do even better.

On Kevin De Bruyne

Henry, having been in close quarters with the Belgium national team, knows more than a thing or two about Kevin De Bruyne. While he calls Haaland the “most valuable” player, he reserves the title of the “most important” to the midfield magician. He posed his observation to Pep as to why he feels De Bruyne is a perfectionist and expects a lot of himself and the teams he plays for, but sometimes a bit too much to his own detriment.

In response, Pep calls him a special player, yet sensitive. “Be angry, be upset, shout, do whatever. Sometimes he is too flat. Too nice. He is a lovely guy, quiet”, he added. He revealed how De Bruyne is a player that doesn’t hold grudges on the field. But Pep clearly wants him to embrace all those feelings on the pitch and to channel them into something more that could make him standout on nights like a Champions League final to truly put him in the bracket of the Messis and Ronaldos of the world.

Pep’s Evolution

Having been part of Pep’s gung-ho, no-holds-barred approach during his Barca days, Henry also witnessed his dominance from afar as a pundit. The Arsenal legend brought about an interesting observation about Pep’s Bayern team that visited Camp Nou in the UCL semi finals back in 2015. While the world might have called his approach in that game as “suicidal”, his former player could only admire his determination to not veer away from his philosophy that brought him so much success, even if it meant losing.

After more than a decade of not winning the Champions League since his last one in Barcelona’s golden era, the Catalan boss has now finally put all the doubters and haters to the wayside after winning nearly every trophy available with his star studded Man City team.

However, Henry attributed this success to his former boss’ willingness to finally adapt and play with a more pragmatic approach. “Now the difference is Akanji is a proper defender, John Stones has incredible focus, Kyle has the ability to control one of the most dangerous wingers in the world in Vinicius Jr., Ruben has huge talent. People say ‘oh what an incredible pass or goal’ but be a good defender. Now we have players who enjoy defending, more this season than in the past”, claimed Pep in agreement.

Inter’s Style Of Play

“Inter Milan is not just the structure of back 5 and 2 strikers”. Pep was quick to suggest that Inter’s style of play is not just one dimensional. Andre Onana, one of the best ball playing keepers in the game, got high praise from Pep on how difficult it is to press a goalkeeper like that who can just split the entire opposition defense open with a pass to either of Lukaku or Martinez who are masters at holding up the ball. In contrast, Pep made an interesting point on how United’s forwards cannot do what Inter’s forwards can.

The End

“That’s why they are in the final of the Champions League. But at the same time, we try to find a way to beat them”, said a cautiously optimistic Pep. Spoiler alert: Pep did find a way to beat them to lift the ‘Big Ears’ again for the 3rd time.

A perfect end to an absolutely gripping chat between two champions, treble winners, and more importantly, good friends. Magnifique.


Related post

Liverpool vs Manchester City Review: Community Shield 2022

Liverpool vs Manchester City Review: Community Shield 2022

Liverpool faced Manchester City in the Community Shield as the curtain raiser of the 2022/23 season. Klopp’s Reds defeated Chelsea in…