This Monday Pep Guardiola turns 50 years old. Half a century of a life linked to football and commitment to an idea and a school that, without demeaning all those who have also contributed to it, has been christened the cruyffista model. Guardiola, who landed at the hands of Oriol Tort in La Masia when he was 13 years old from Gimnàstic Manresa, could hardly have imagined then that he would end up being Johan’s leading student only a few years later.
Although the story had begun earlier, with Cruyff’s always attentive gaze on the young footballers in the house, it was on December 16, 1990 when Guardiola made his debut, in Cádiz, with the first team. It was the beginning of a unique communion in football, a combination that would change the history of Barça. The first pages of the club’s most romantic story were beginning to be written, which would end up excelling years later, when Santpedor’s, without ceasing to be that privileged student of Johan’s, would end up becoming the coach with the most titles, joys and pride. they would take to the windows of Barça.
Cruyff’s intuition, combined with Luis Milla’s departure to Real Madrid, opened Guardiola’s doors to the first team, in which the position of 4 it was already beginning to be a hallmark of Barça football. “From this position I had a privileged vision of the game. It was very important for us, to always find the best way out of the ball. Quickly and intelligently. He had an exquisite technique,” he recalls in a conversation with ARA Miquel Àngel Nadal. Barça’s central midfielder between 1991 and 1999 was one of Guardiola’s first roommates at Barça. “Only on the road, eh! Not every day, he wasn’t my type,” jokes Nadal, who has kept a great friendship with the coach since the years that coincided with both Barça and the Spanish national team.
“Pep, despite his youth, was a footballer who identified a lot with Barça and his environment. He represented exactly his place in what was the whole football structure of Johan. Since he came from home, the his arrival on the team was like the missing piece to finish fitting all the parts of the puzzle together, ”Nadal describes. “It was like the extension of the coach on the field, because his position was where most balls went. His main function was to choose the best option where to get the ball and, that, in the philosophy of the game “Apart from that, Pep was very demanding. He always wanted to win and he always thought about football: he asked a lot, he was interested in both his position and that of his teammates, what was the best way.” to place ourselves, what movements we could make … You saw that it was his passion “.
“Together with Sergio Busquets, he is the best player Barça has had in this position”
Nadal, who defines Guardiola as “the person who has best captured Cruyff’s message,” also recalls the importance and ancestry of the Dutch coach in that group of players who would be christened the Dream Team. “His winning mentality was entrusted. We didn’t go out to speculate. We were ambitious and we played very offensive football. Apart from being a coach that the players had a lot of respect for who he had been as a player, you saw that everything he told us he came out naturally, he believed in it. He also knew when you had to stop and encouraged you when you needed to. He was a breakthrough in many ways. “
Evolution as a coach
Guardiola would end his career as a footballer away from Barça, where he returned in 2007 to re-float the subsidiary, which had just been relegated to the Third Division. Only a season later he was commissioned by then-president Joan Laporta to take the reins of the first team to begin the most glorious era of a coach on the Barça bench. “Pep is the son of Barça and Barça was his home,” journalist and ex-athlete Martí Perarnau told ARA. “As a coach he put on the field all those tools, instruments and knowledge that he learned for so many years at the club. To put it in some way, he didn’t have to make any substantial changes in his way of understanding. What he had done as a player, he took to the field with some footballers – Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets … – who have the same football language and practice the same style “. For four seasons on the first team bench (2008-2012) Guardiola won 14 titles out of 19 possible.
As a Barça coach, Santpedor showed his commitment to an idea and a model, with the ball always as the protagonist of the discursive axis, which amazed Europe and made him one of the most sought-after coaches on the planet. . His time on the bench would continue in 2013 at Bayern Munich. “Pep is planted in Germany as the 16-year-old dwarf who leaves home for the first time to see the world. In the Bundesliga he finds himself with the icy fields of the winter months, the game on the counterattack of any team and at any time , passionate stadiums like Borussia Dortmund … And, at Bayern, a very different culture in which they speak another language, both linguistic and football “, analyzes the author of books such as Mr. Pep (2014) i Pep Guardiola. Metamorphosis (2016). “In addition, there is the circumstance that when Pep is hired, Bayern was doing badly. But when he arrives in Munich, he does so after they have won the treble and this makes it difficult to adapt.”
In favor, Guardiola found in Bayern players eager to learn from the stamp of the Catalan coach, such as Lahm, Kroos, Boateng and Alaba. “Unfortunately, Thiago’s injuries make him unable to help spread this way of playing,” Perarnau adds. “Pep also adapts to players who do not have this profile, such as Robben, Ribéry or Müller, and makes a very important move: he places the sides inside, helping the midfielder and creating a line of three with which he breaks the rival counterattacks “. After dominating his main rival, Borussia Dortmund, and winning the Bundesliga with authority, Guardiola signed in 2016 for Manchester City.
“With Messi fake 9, Pep surprised. But the concept already existed. His great contribution to football is playing with the sides inside “
“In Manchester he is no longer the Pep who only knows Barça’s style in depth: he has already applied several variants thanks to his time in Germany. Apart from studying a lot like the Premier League, his first year in England was “It was a complicated course, but during which he learned a lot from another type of football,” said Perarnau. “It was a difficult course, with other circumstances in the process of making the team to measure.” “In his second year he would win the Premier League, breaking the 100-point record and continue to add titles. He has also had obstacles, but he has accumulated experience that allows him to speak very rich football languages and master many variants, which he exposes according to matches.”
It is in Manchester where Guardiola will turn 50 this Monday. Al City, with the complicity of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain within the structure of the club, as well as the confidence of President Khaldoon al-Mubarak, is living its longest stage on a bench: in November it renewed until 2023.