There are the two Champions Leagues he won with Barcelona. The 22 trophies he claimed in Spain and Germany. The 13-game winning run that could become a Premier League-best 14 against United and the Manchester City club record run of 28 unbeaten matches that lasted from April to December.
But if passing football didn’t succeed, if his purist principles stopped bringing results a perfectionist wants, Guardiola knows what he would do. He would not change. He would quit. For good.
“If that is going to happen (that possession football doesn’t succeed), I’m going to retire,” he vowed. “Because I don’t feel it another way.
“I could defend more deep. But I want to have the ball and I want to play. From the first game, always I try to look for that. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But the idea (of abandoning my beliefs), that is not going to happen, never. Never in my life.”
And the only time Guardiola thought seriously about altering his approach was not during an awkward debut season in charge of City but in his first managerial job, in charge of Barcelona’s second team.
“I had doubts a little bit in the beginning,” he revealed. “When I remember the first three games, I won, I drew, I lose. We played in artificial pitches in the fourth division and they were so small. On (one) Monday I thought I would have to change because we cannot play in that way. I arrived Tuesday and said: ‘We have to change because the pitch is so small.’
“But I arrived on Wednesday and said: ‘No, I’m not going to change.’ Because the alternative didn’t convince me. And it was so good because by the end of the season we were champions. That was an important moment. Because in that moment I was new. I had not experience, even if I had beliefs. I still had to prove myself. That showed me.”
Guardiola’s team were promoted. So was he. He took charge of the first team at the Nou Camp. After four glorious years in which he created one of the greatest teams in history, he was one of management’s hottest properties.
He took a sabbatical in New York. He met Sir Alex Ferguson, then planning his own retirement, for dinner one day. Guardiola denied he was offered the job at Old Trafford or that he could have been in the home dugout today.
“My English is that period was not as good as it is right now – and so maybe I just didn’t understand what Sir Alex said,” he added. “I think he has said he suggested to me something about going to Old Trafford. But I really don’t remember that. We spoke about life, about football, about the Premier League.
“But there was no message sent to me under the table about United. I think I would remember that. It was just two friends talking about many, many things. What I do remember was that Sir Alex spoke really fast and it was difficult to understand him.”
Guardiola was already a fan of Ferguson. Finishing 15 points behind Chelsea last season, proving how difficult English football can be, only increased that admiration.
“Definitely,” he said. “I cannot imagine winning 13 Premier Leagues. That’s why he’s Sir. It’s magnificent what he has done. I respect the long careers. He was able to win with one generation, then bring a new one in and win again, then a new one and win again and that is so complicated.”
But knowing he would rather give up the game than his principles? That, for Guardiola, is easy.