Pep Guardiola lives for football. His mind rarely drifts from the beautiful game. He’s been told on many an occasion to focus his mind on something else, but the longest he can go without thinking about football is, according to Manel Estiarte, his personal assistant, 32 minutes. He may have the odd weakness that the Premier League is waiting to ruthlessly exploit, but their is no doubt that Pep Guardiola’s understanding of football is exceptional.
When announcing the incredible news that Pep would succeed him as City boss next season, current manager Manuel Pellegrini said, “The club aren’t doing anything behind me. I knew about this one month ago.” Pellegrini also said that it was the right time to make it public so that the rumours would end once and for all, and also because it was important that his availability was made known to other interested clubs.
Pellegrini, who is still in with a chance of winning all 4 available trophies to him, would be right to feel hard done by, but it’s hard to argue when a manager such as Pep Guardiola says he wants to coach in the Premier League. And he is not just any old manager.
Pep’s father, Valenti Guardiola, was a brick layer, so hard work was immediately instilled into a young Pep. His early days with Barcelona couldn’t have made for much of a better footballing education. Not only did he get to come through the ranks of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, but he also, alongside many great players, got to learn from one of football’s greatest ever players, Johan Cruyff.
Despite once being christened by Cruyff, “slower than my Granny’, the pair got on very well, with their coinciding outstanding knowledge of the game combining to great effect.
Cruyff used Pep’s intelligence in the holding midfield position of his ‘Dream Team’, which won four straight league titles from 1991 to 1994 along with the European Cup in 1992, and although Pep moved elsewhere towards the end of his career, the Catalan had still lived in Barcelona for the majority of his life, and that was a factor in the decision to come back to Barca in a coaching role, where he enjoyed a successful spell with the side’s B team before being given the role as first team manager for the 2008/09 season.
His endless analysis of opposition footage and hours of explanations to his players about how he wanted them to perform the perfect role in the team lead to a sensational first season as a manager, in which Barcelona won all three trophies, the Copa Del Rey, La Liga, and the Champions League.
Although people may suggest that it could have been done by any manager due to the players he had at his disposal, many people do not understand the tactical detail that Guardiola uses, and how difficult it is to then explain his visions and ideas to his players, but Pep did it.
He would spend hours on both the training ground and in his office planning a brilliantly well organised defence that allowed him to let his attacking players flourish. Pep does the work creating the system with the conducting holding midefielder (just like himself) and the overlapping full backs, and then, once his system has succeeded in getting the ball into dangerous areas, it is left up to the attacking players to score the goals, and with Lionel Messi and co in his team, it is no wonder Barca were so successful under him.
Guardiola is a perfectionist, and despite being criticized for this sometimes, he did an incredible job in winning 14 trophies in just 4 seasons Barca whilst still playing attractive attacking football, known throughout the world as ‘Tiki-Taka’.
But believe it or not, Pep himself sees ‘Tiki-Taka’ as a stupid meaningless phrase, saying that it suggested that his team would pass the ball for no reason, when, in fact, they would move the ball in order to move the opposition.
But whatever ‘Tiki-Taka’ is, and however Pep mastered his Barcelona side throughout his spell with the club, he clearly did it well. He had done what no other manager with Barcelona had done before, and he had guided the club to the most successful period in its history. But that took its toll though, so by the end he couldn’t handle the pressure of the job, and at the end of the 2011-12 season, Guardiola resigned as manager of Barcelona.
During his year out of the game, it was reported that Roman Abramovic may have approached him for the Chelsea job, and that he could begin planning the squad for the 2013/14 season already, but if that story was true, Guardiola clearly turned it down, and the following season he was appointed as manager of Bayern Munich.
He has done well so far, but has only enjoyed limited success as he is still yet to take Bayern to Champions League glory, and he has the remainder of this season left to fulfil that dream before he takes over at City.
So how will the Premier League treat him? Can he handle the media? Louis Van Gaal has been seen to crush under the press conference pressure on more than one occasion, of course. And then there’s the factor of the winter break, which Jurgen Klopp clearly wasn’t prepeared for, and finally, you could say that despite in Germany and Spain the league’s stronger teams are more strong, but in the Premier League the weaker teams are less weak, and English football is more balanced, so will Pep struggle to win so many games by 5, 6 or 7 goal margins now? What’s most important though, is will Pep guide City to glory?