A closer look at the career of the enigmatic Spaniard coach, Pep Guardiola.
Born Josep Guardiola Sala in Santpedor, Barcelona. Guardiola grew up idolising his favourite players of the legendary Barcelona FC. Having a knack for football ever since he could run properly, young Pep was shaping up into quite the player.
At age 13, during a youth team fixture, one scrawny little boy caught the eye of Johan Cyruff. The little boy was Josep Guardiola. He quickly made an impression on Cyruff and was accepted into La Masia. He quickly rose through the ranks of the academy and established quite a reputation. After spending 6 years in the academy, Pep made his debut against Cádiz CF in 1990. Phil Ball, a famous journalist, wrote in the Morbo:
“In his first week at the club, Johan Cruyff turned up unannounced at the ‘Mini’ stadium, a venue just down the road from Camp Nou used by the youth and B teams. Just before half-time he wandered into the dug-out and asked Charly Rexach, the youth team manager at the time, the name of the young lad playing on the right side of midfield. ‘Guardiola – good lad’ came the reply. Cruyff ignored the comment and told Rexach to move him into the middle for the second half, to play as pivot. It was a difficult position to adapt to and one not used by many teams in Spain at the time. Guardiola adjusted immediately, as Cruyff had suspected he would, and when he moved up into the first-team in 1990 he became the pivot of the Dream Team.”
By 1991, Guardiola was a key regular in Johan Cyruff’s “Dream Team” and became one of the best central midfielders in the Spanish League. The “Dream Team” would go on to retain the league title for the next two seasons.
Guardiola went to captain the Spanish Olympic team at the Barcelona games, where the team won gold. Pep was also awarded the Bravo Award for the best midfielder in the world under the age of 21. Despite the lack of success in La Liga, Guardiola was hailed as one of the world’s best young talents. Barcelona had quite a lot on their hands after they started receiving several bids of huge amounts for the services of the talented Pep Guardiola. They managed to retain for a few more years until he decided to go to Seria A, playing for Brescia. He played alongside legends such as Roberto Baggio and under coach Carlo Mazzone.
Guardiola was highly regarded throughout his career for his vision, close control, passing range, positional sense, and calm composure on the ball, which enabled him to retain possession and either set the tempo of his team’s play in midfield with intricate short exchanges, or switch the play or create chances with longer passes.
A Star Comes Back Home
Guardiola chose to retire in his mid-30s and had already cemented his name as one of the best players to lace up a pair of boots. But Pep still had miles to go in his football career.
After a brief spell in Qatar, Guardiola chose to hang up his boots in 2006. He chose to spend a year away from football and take some time off. A year later, Guardiola is appointed the Head Coach of Barcelona B with Tito Vilanova as his assistant. Guardiola would make several changes in the team setup that would raise quite a lot of eyebrows but his methods always procured results.
A year later, Barcelona president Joan Laporta announced that the new head coach for Barcelona, replacing Frank Rijkaard. Barcelona saw an exodus of sorts when big names like Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Deco and Lilian Thuram decided to part ways with the Catalan side. This meant that the fresh, new manager had almost a blank slate, to begin with, and will have to start from scratch.
In his first year as manager, Barcelona did not only manage to bag the League Title but the Copa del Ray and the Champions League as well becoming the first Spanish club to achieve a treble. Barcelona, under Guardiola’s leadership, would win every single trophy in the 2009 calendar including FIFA Club World Cup- the first time in their history. Winning the La Liga 3 times in his 4 seasons at Barcelona, Guardiola established himself as one of the best managers of this generation.
A Spanish Man in Germany
Bayern Munich were on the lookout to replace Jupp Heynckes as the head coach for the team, in a bid to become the most dominant club in Europe.
Pep Guardiola chose to take a sabbatical for a year in New York, in much the same way he chose to take a year away from football after retiring as a professional football player. He took the year off after being released from Barcelona as their head coach after failing to win the Champion’s League, he chose to step out of action in order to attract offers from other teams in Europe.
Pep Guardiola fit their requirements of Bayern Munich and managed to bring Guardiola to the club.
Guardiola would have a rough start at the club but eventually picked up steam as he went along, winning the UEFA Super Cup, beating long-time adversary, Jose Mourinho. Guardiola and Bayern managed to win the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal titles in his first season at the club. Although never reaching the level of success he did at Barcelona, he still managed to rack up an impressive 5 trophies in his 3 seasons at the club.
The English Premier League and the Maestro
The news of Guardiola coming to the English Premier League sent shockwaves all around the globe with millions of fans hoping that Pep Guardiola could manage their club. Names like Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool were in proper contention of having the manager take the club’s reigns. Eventually, it was revealed that Guardiola would be managing Manchester City.
City fans would lose their minds over the joy of having a manager the likes of Pep Guardiola take control of the club. Guardiola, who has staggering amounts of success all around the globe and carries the reputation of one of the best in the world.
He would get off to a great start at Manchester City and eventually even claim 1st Position in the Premier League table. He would simply creative tactics in the club’s games and generally put up amazing displays of football. But, something went terribly wrong for Guardiola after a while.
City started up racking up more losses than victories and would consistently perform poorly and would drop down the table, giving Chelsea way to claim the top spot in the Premier League.
Guardiola, for the first time in his career, came under heavy fire and criticism from the media and the fans. The team would hit quite the low when they were trashed 4-0 at Goodison Park against Everton.
His recent performance as manager raises the question on Guardiola’s brilliance and whether he can handle the level of competition a league such as EPL boasts of.
Perhaps one season might be too early to be judging Guardiola’s ability as a world-class manager. But perhaps, Guardiola might have run out of luck and would have to dig down deep to find what made him one of the best managers in the world in the first place.