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Champions League final was proof Thomas Tuchel has replaced Klopp as Guardiola’s biggest rival

June 2, 2021January 7th, 2022

THE story goes that Pep Guardiola wanted Thomas Tuchel to succeed him as Bayern Munich manager. Having impressed at Mainz and made a good first impression at Borussia Dortmund, the Catalan saw a lot of himself in Tuchel and made a point of highlighting his potential as a future superstar manager to the hierarchy at the Allianz Arena.

Ultimately, Bayern Munich opted for a safer appointment in Carlo Ancelotti, but Tuchel continued his rise. That rise culminated in the 47-year-old leading Chelsea to victory over Guardiola’s Manchester City in Saturday’s Champions League final. No longer close associates, Guardiola and Tuchel are now direct rivals.

In fact, Tuchel now looks to be Guardiola’s biggest rival. The latter’s impact since replacing Frank Lampard as Chelsea manager in January has been profound, taking over a club that was slumped in ninth place at the time of his arrival and not only taking them to a top four finish, but Champions League glory. 

Next season, Chelsea will be expected to challenge for the Premier League title, especially if a few key areas are addressed in the transfer market this summer. Tuchel’s team are not the finished article, despite their victory over City in Porto, but the bones of a title-winning side are already in place.

Not so long ago, it was Jurgen Klopp chasing down Guardiola at the top of the English game. Much like Tuchel, Klopp achieved success in Europe before he was able to topple Manchester City, winning the 2019/20 Premier League title after a personal duel with the man in charge at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola and Klopp’s rivalry never got personal, even if there were some moments of friction, but there was an intensity between their two teams on the pitch that reflected the personalty of the men on the touchline. That intensity is also apparent in the matches Chelsea and City have played against each other since Tuchel’s arrival in England. With Liverpool a faded force, Tuchel has now replaced Klopp as Guardiola’s most dangerous adversary.

 

 

Tuchel seems to have a grasp on Guardiola’s Manchester City team and how to beat them. Indeed, Chelsea have won their last three meetings with the Premier League champions – in the FA Cup semi final at Wembley, in the league at the Etihad Stadium and in the Champions League final in Porto. 

The Blues already know they can beat City in a one-off encounter. It could even be argued Guardiola and his players have developed an inferiority complex when it comes to games against Chelsea – see how Guardiola thought so hard about how to beat Chelsea in Saturday’s Champions League final that he ultimately beat himself.

Of course, sustaining that over the course of a full season will be an altogether different challenge, but Chelsea boast a generally young squad that will only improve with the experience of what happened last weekend. Winning over the Stamford Bridge dressing room is half the battle for any Blues boss and having delivered the Champions League trophy within his first five months it’s fair to say Tuchel has already done that.

Now, the Chelsea board must back him in the transfer market. Tuchel needs a true goalscorer to lead the line – Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku have all been linked. A new centre back to partner Antonio Rudiger would also take Chelsea’s squad to another level, as impressive as Andreas Christensen has been in recent months.

Liverpool gave Klopp what he needed to go toe-to-toe with Guardiola (see the signing of Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk) and Chelsea must do the same for Tuchel if they have genuine ambitions of overthrowing Manchester City as English football’s predominant force. The Stamford Bridge club might not yet have the players to do this, but it certainly appears they have the manager.