Guardiola’s City wrapped up a second straight league title on Sunday, with the possibility of completing the first-ever domestic treble in English football history looming large as they prepare for the upcoming FA Cup final clash against Watford.
Valverde’s Barcelona have themselves won La Liga for a second straight season, continuing their dominance in Spain where they have won eight of the last 11 league titles – a run that began when Guardiola was appointed manager in 2008. The former Barcelona midfielder went on to win La Liga in each of his first three seasons as first-team coach.
“He has done something amazing, not just because of what he is doing and winning the Premier League, but what he has been doing for so long,” Valverde said after Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Getafe on Sunday.
“For me, and I said it back in the day, he’s the best manager in the world and you can learn things from him every single day.
“He has all my congratulations and he still has the possibility of winning another title with his team. We all like him here.”
The signing of Antoine Griezmann by Barcelona has been a long time in the making – more than a year, in fact – and goes a long way towards answering the Catalan club’s need for more quality and depth in the goalscoring department.
But the impending transfer provides more questions than answers, and there is still a lack of clarity over how Barca will line up next season.
Of course, there won’t be just one ‘team’ – Ernesto Valverde, or whoever replaces him, will need to employ several varieties of line-ups to balance the intense demands of La Liga and the Champions League, both of which, we have seen in the last few weeks, must be won in order to satisfy the lofty expectations of the club and their supporters.
But, injuries and suspensions permitting, it will be necessary to put together a strongest eleven for decisive games towards the end of the campaign as Barca seek to banish their recent Champions League nightmares.
So how will this ideal ‘Gala eleven’ look? Both ends of the pitch are assured: Lionel Messi will lead the attack, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen will be in goal. But every position in between is open to question, and even Messi’s specific role is unsure – false nine or right winger?
The first question arising from the arrival of Griezmann is whether he will play along with or instead of Luis Suarez. Is the Uruguayan’s time at the Camp Nou drawing to a close? You can be certain that he will not go without a fight, and that he will find it difficult to accept being restricted to the bench.
A three-man forward line with Messi on the right, Suarez through the middle and Griezmann on the left would be one solution, but where does that leave Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele?
The former will surely be sold, especially with the need to balance the books and reduce the wage bill in the wake of Griezmann’s capture.
Dembele, though, is a different case and he could still have a major role in the team’s future. His pace and penetration offers something completely different from anybody else in the squad, and the big question mark is not over his ability but his fitness: can he stay healthy for a full season?
If so, he could easily become a starter on one flank along with Griezmann on the other while Messi returns to his old false nine position.
The midfield picture is perhaps even muddier. Frenkie De Jong will surely be given a chance to become a regular starter after his purchase from Ajax, but will he play as a deep-lying pivot in place of the rapidly ageing Sergio Busquets, or in a more advanced position?
Rising youngsters Arthur and Carles Alena did enough this season to suggest they could partner De Jong and become the future of the midfield for many years to come, along with an increasingly prominent role for impressive teen Riqui Puig, but moving aside old-timers Busquets and Ivan Rakitic will be a tough decision.
Furthermore, Arturo Vidal has been outstanding this season and was one of few players to emerge from the Anfield debacle with his reputation enhanced, and Sergi Roberto’s contribution to the team over recent years should not be overlooked.
Roberto also features in another selection dilemma in the right-back position, where Nelson Semedo has shown flashes of excellence but never done quite enough to make himself the undisputed starter.
Semedo has always looked more comfortable with the similarly speedy Dembele in front of him, so his fate could significantly rest upon the progress of the Frenchman.
The centre of the defence is also uncertain: will Gerard Pique be phased out by the expected arrival of Matthijs de Ligt? Will Samuel Umtiti be able to put an injury-ruined campaign behind him and climb above Clement Lenglet in the pecking order?
Even at left-back, where Jordi Alba remains a certain starter, there is a pressing need to sign a back-up and then decide how often he should play.
So the signing of Antoine Griezmann might be the start of the new Barca taking shape, but a lot more pieces to the puzzle still need to be filled in.
It will be Barcelona’s first-ever appearance in the final – by contrast, French side Lyon will be in familiar territory as they contest their eighth showpiece in the last decade.
Lyon, who have become the first team to reach four finals in a row, hold the record for Champions League titles (five), consecutive titles (three) and final appearances (eight) – and these have all come since 2010.
Barcelona are Spain’s first representatives in the final, and join a list which includes Germany, France, Sweden, Russia, England and Denmark.
Barcelona could become the first team to win both the men’s and women’s UEFA Champions Leagues, and they will be keen to avenge their quarter-final defeat to Lyon last year.
Check out the video above to see the team in training ahead of their showpiece final.