Pep Guardiola said Zinedine Zidane’s feat of winning three consecutive Champions Leagues will never be repeated as his Manchester City side prepare to face the Frenchman’s Real Madrid in the last 16 on Wednesday.
City take on Madrid in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Guardiola and Zidane go up against each other for the first time as coaches.
Guardiola has not won the Champions League since his Barcelona side triumphed in 2011 while Zidane has enjoyed incredible success in recent years, as Real were crowned champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
“What he’s done in Europe will not be repeated,” said Guardiola on Tuesday.
“To win three consecutive Champions Leagues proves how great this club is. It goes on, generation after generation.”
Zidane had said earlier on Tuesday that Guardiola is the best coach in the world and also spoke about his visit to see the Spaniard at Bayern Munich in 2015.
Zidane was starting out as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Madrid while Guardiola was the manager at Bayern.
“We obviously take inspiration from what they (City) do well,” Zidane said. “It was great to spend time with him. He was sincere, open and with someone like that you can always learn things.”
Guardiola said: “It was our pleasure, he came with other colleagues from France and spent some days with us. We had some discussions and it was wonderful. He was starting to learn and he was one of the greatest players of all time so it was an honour.”
– Extra edge for City –
City’s task has extra edge after they were handed a two-year ban by UEFA for breaching Financial Fair-Play rules, meaning this could be their last involvement in the Champions League until at least 2022.
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said the prospect of a suspension could give City’s players extra motivation.
“Obviously it’s bad news for the players that want to keep playing in the competition but also it’s a good way for them to have motivation and to want to show what they’re capable of,” said Ramos.
“And when they return in three years perhaps they will want to win more than ever.”
Yet Guardiola insisted UEFA’s punishment would have no impact on the approach of his team.
“No way, these players will have a lot of chances. I know we play against the king of Europe and the challenge we face but at the same time it’s not the last one.
“There’s no special motivation, even if it’s the last one, the desire has to be there, without that it’s impossible. But other than that, it’s another game –- that’s all.”
City have been given a boost by the return to fitness of Raheem Sterling, who has been out for three weeks with a hamstring injury.
“He’s fit, his recovery is amazing,” said Guardiola. “He said to us he could have played against West Ham and Leicester but the doctor said to be careful with a muscular injury that (usually takes) three weeks or one month.
“But he wanted to play and that’s a good sign. He’s fit and he’s ready.”