Pep Guardiola stands on the brink of immortality although the notion seems to sit rather uncomfortably with him. Barcelona's coach has become a byword for humility. Yet if he could mastermind another Champions League final triumph over Manchester United, to mirror that of 2009 in Rome, he would surely have to accept such accolades reluctantly.
Barcelona boast that they are more than a club and there has been an otherworldly quality to plenty of their teams over the years. But if Johan Cruyff's Dream Team of the early 1990s is held up as the model, and it has inspired Guardiola, then the current crop, this exhilarating class of the 21st century, is primed to outflank them.
Despite Guardiola's extraordinary success as Barcelona's coach, it is unclear whether his journey with the club will continue after this final. Cruyff has said it "wouldn't surprise" him if the game was the 40-year-old's last in charge, and Guardiola was noncommittal last night.
"Let's leave this for another day," he said. "When you win, you can look at the future more calmly but it all takes its toll one way or another. It's three or four years going non-stop, that's the way it is. When you win, at least it lets you keep going."
This has been a draining season for Guardiola, largely because of the presence of José Mourinho in the Real Madrid dugout. The El Clásico series took it out of Guardiola on several levels and, with the worry lines deepening, he was caught by an Italian TV channel saying the season would be his last at the club.
If Wembley proves to be Guardiola's farewell to Barcelona, it would be a fitting departure point. He was part of the Cruyff Dream Team that beat Sampdoria 1-0 there courtesy of Ronald Koeman's extra-time free-kick to win the club's first European Cup in 1992. It was a memorable night in so many ways and, on a personal level, Guardiola, who brought his smooth style to the central midfield battle zone, might recall the ovation he enjoyed when he was substituted minutes after Koeman's goal. He has certainly been touched by Wembley's magic.
Cryuff's team, for all their league titles, could not add to their solitary success in Europe's elite competition. That is now the incentive for Guardiola who claimed, with characteristic modesty, that his side "can never compete with the Dream Team … they started this".
"There have been many great teams, it's a long history and it's impossible to compare," Guardiola said on Friday night. "We hope we can be proud in the future – that in the next five, 10 or 15 years, people will remember this team and say 'one time I saw this team ...' It's like a great film – only with the passing of time can you know if a film is good, and it's the same with us."
Lionel Messi is the undoubted star yet the supporting cast also has the licence to thrill. Wembley hopes to stage a classic.
"We have the audience of the world and we have to show we deserve this credit of 'the final of the decade'," Guardiola said. "When you play in a final and both teams want to win and both want to play, for the rest of the world it will be a good final. [United] have their strength, we have our skill, and we have to see who controls the situation best. If we play as we did in Rome, this time we won't win. We played worse in Rome than we wanted to. We need to play much better than in 2009 and this is the thing I've told my players over the past couple of days."
Guardiola's only selection decision involves whether to start with Eric Abidal at left-back or Javier Mascherano at centre-half, with Carles Puyol accommodated accordingly. Barcelona, as ever, are here to play. Victory would define an era.