Following Guardiola’s decision to step down, and the knee-jerk reaction from a large section of the media, I decided it was time to bring down the myth about Guardiola being the greatest manager in the world. As we know, a Gowan-born lad has been at the helm for 25 years and shows no sign of letting go…
As Pep Guardiola announced his decision to step down from his post as Barcelona manager at the end of the season, the headlines were ready around the world to celebrate the man that delivered 13 trophies in the last four seasons, as Barca swept aside their opponents – with a few notable exceptions – earning themselves the tag of greatest team of all times.
Whether the Catalans are effectively the greatest football club ever is debatable, whether Guardiola is the best manager in the world,is out of question.
The former Barca captain surely raised the bar in terms of success and demonstrated that it’s possible to lift trophies – in his case, in abundance – even by sticking to a rigid football philosophy, but his admirers tend to forget that El Pep enjoyed a definitely easy ride compared to some of his colleagues.
If football was to be compared to a social background, Guardiola would definitely be considered as the product of a well-off family.
Sure, the expectations were high as he stepped into the dugout at the Nou Camp for the first in the 2009 season, but the players at his disposal were world class, some fresh of continental glory with Spain – Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol – some on their way to global icon – Leo Messi.
Hardly a bad group of players with which to embark on his first managerial job of his career.
Sure, Guardiola developed Barca into a team that combined style and success like no other before. Yes, there was the romantic aspect of the youngsters stepping into the first team and storming to European and domestic glory, but Pep didn’t decide to field product of Barca’s academy purely out of necessity for he knew the club would back him financially.
When talking of Pedro, Tello and Cuenca – only the first has established himself at Barca for the time being, while the two younger products have enjoyed longer spells in the team this term – it’s easy to forget that David Villa, Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas, Adriano, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Dmytro Chygrynskiy – both far from memorable purchases – and Dani Alves were brought in with hefty price tags around their necks – with Gerard Pique the only exception, as he was relatively cheap.
Guardiola explained that stress and pressure where decisive factors in his decision, something that would have had Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson grinning given that the Catalan spent only four season in charge of Barcelona, compared with the 15 years Wenger has spent at Arsenal and Fergie’s 25 years at Old Trafford.
Claiming that Guardiola has built a cycle is a misleading statement, for he moulded an already excellent side into a fantastic reality, highlighting Barca’s philosophy and expanding to previously unseen levels.
Likewise, it would be disrespectful to consider the players the only reason behind Barca’s achievements but, without taking anything away from Pep, it’s hard to imagine him enjoying a similar vein of success was he to join another club – curiously, the same could be said about one of Pep’s greatest servants, that Lionel Messi that would probably never leave the Camp Nou.
Thirteen trophies in four years are a fantastic achievement and Barca have dominated European football to a level perhaps only seen with Real Madrid in the 1950s, Ajax and Bayern in the 1970s, Liverpool in the 1980s and Milan in the 1990s but quitting after four years leaves behind a sense of unfinished business.
Perhaps, Guardiola’s greatest achievement was to remain always dignified, in victory as much as in defeat.
A successful, classy and humble man, whose name will always be mentioned in the same breath as Barca’s but not quite one of the greatest managers ever.
Not yet, anyway.
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