As Barcelona gears up to host Bayern Munich in the return leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal Wednesday, former Barca coach and newly minted Bayern coach Pep Guardiola cast an analytical eye.
"I am very bad at predictions. Two fantastic teams are playing and anything can happen," Guardiola told El Tiempo following a motivational speech before nearly 10,000 fans in Bogota, Colombia, on Tuesday. "These are teams that had an extraordinary dominance in their respective leagues, and are deserving of everything they have won this season. I am very impatient to watch."
Bayern signed Guardiola to a three-year contract that starts in July. Guardiola led Barcelona to 14 titles over four seasons before stepping down and taking a year off.
Guardiola said he also watched Tuesday's other semifinal leg, Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund. Despite Real's victory, Dortmund advanced to the May 25 final at Wembley 4-3 on aggregate.
"I am a huge fan of football. I follow the tactics and it was an emotional match," Guardiola told El Tiempo. "The result in the first match was an ample win, but with Real Madrid in the Bernabeu you can never say it is over until the ref blows the final whistle. And I say that based on experience."
Guardiola gave a conference Tuesday on leadership in which he spoke about his career, past, present and future, El Tiempo reported. He also spoke about the current state of football, Johann Cruyff's influence at Barcelona and Lionel Messi's career, saying he "learned a lot from him (Messi)." Guardiola is set to give a similar workshop on Thursday in Buenos Aires.
"Cruyff started everything (in Barcelona) and was one of the club's most influential people," he said. "We all have the capacity to get things done, but if someone comes and says you have to something with nothing, let me say I would not have been able to construct something like that from the beginning. At the end, after being with him as a coach, I learned a lot. I can't imagine the current Barcelona without what he did 20 years ago. Those who followed him put their touches on it, but to him I am eternally grateful."
Cruyff was named as a consultant last year to the ailing Chivas de Guadalajara team in the Mexican league, but was sacked after just nine months on the job in the face of the club's continuing struggles. John Van't Schip, the former Ajax and Genoa player Cruyff brought with him to Mexico was also sacked a few days after Cruyff's dismissal.
Guardiola said it was premature to speak of Spain's demise and the rise of the Bundesliga in European football.
"I am not so quick to judge," he said. "The four semifinal teams are fantastic. At this level all four are just as great."
Guardiola said "Spanish football is at the highest level."
He credited Luis Aragones and current Spanish national team coach Vicente del Bosque for Spain's success in Europe.
"The English Premier League is always among the top three, Italy has fallen a little," he said. "In these countries the economy has had an effect. But sometimes it's normal that tendencies shift and we must wait and see what time brings."