Guardiola and Tuchel's unlikely friendship

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File photo of Pep Guardiola.

A famous evening in a Munich restaurant six years ago cemented the friendship between Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola.

While the 47-year-old German played the glowing admirer at the dinner, Tuchel has long since developed into a serious rival competitor for the Spaniard.

Both tactical nerds will now meet in the 2021 Champions League final in Istanbul on May 29 when the Premier League clubs Manchester City and Chelsea cross swords.

Since Tuchel took over the Blues in January 2021, tactics have been kept secret until kick-off in contrast to the time spent in the "Schumann's" restaurant in Bavaria's capital.

The then Bayern coach Guardiola and the unemployed Tuchel astounded fellow guests by kindly asking their fellow guests for their salt and pepper shakers before moving them around the table frenetically to prove tactical theories.

Both kept details secret in the following years but continuously spoke about their mutual respect.

Shortly afterwards, Guardiola then saw the young coach take over at Borussia Dortmund and slowly develop into one of international football's leading coaches.

In the meantime, the trainee has gained lots of international experience, first at Dortmund and then taking an overheated Paris St Germain to last season's Champions League final.

While Tuchel might have failed in his attempt to get everyone's feet behind the line in the French capital, things appear a perfect match now in London.

"Meeting Pep always is an amazing pleasure and inspiration," Tuchel said about his spiritual brother.

Both stand for trendsetting tactics in football and demanding their players fully accept their roles with the team and invest everything for the collective benefit.

Having unsuccessfully chased Europe's biggest football crown for the past years, Guardiola now meets a different companion.

The Spaniard called his fellow coach an "exceptional manager" and "a friend of mine," adding he is always "happy to see him."

The German often talked about influential factors affecting his career, such as Johan Cruyff's Barcelona, Ajax with Louis van Gaal and Arsene Wenger with the Gunners.

Talking about his role models, he always turns to Guardiola and his achievements in Barcelona.

Thomas Tuchel, head coach of Paris Saint-Germain looks on during a training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League Final match against Bayern Munich at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 22, 2020. (Julian Finney/UEFA/Handout via Xinhua)

"Pep has been a big, big influence," Tuchel stated, adding he learned from every one of Guardiola's games. Guardiola is the best, he said, "even if he doesn't like to admit it."

Admiration will take a break in the Champions League final as Tuchel started to think about out-thinking his master immediately after beating Real Madrid in the semifinals. In his mind, he might have moved salt and pepper mills, seeing them score the winning goal in the Turkish capital.

Tuchel's record against Guardiola might contain not too much reason for optimism as he has lost four of the six games.

But even Guardiola might be aware he will meet a world-class manager in his own right as the balance of power has been shifted in favor of Tuchel.

Regarding his team, the German some months ago said: "It's important we don't make ourselves too small." Having achieved success surprisingly quickly, Tuchel has changed into an attacking mood, saying: "We will travel to Istanbul to win the game." He forgot to say that it was irrespective of whether the Citizens are coached by Pep the genius. 

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