Pep = The Philospher King

Fahraaz Patel
The praise has never stopped for Pep Guardiola and why should it?

He is a manager that defines professionalism, idealism and a man that sticks to a philosophy, whether it produces a winning formula or outright failure.

But that failure never really materialised during his four great years at Barcelona, a spell in which the Catalan giants win 14 trophies under Guardiola.

What makes this “philosopher” – a label given by former Barca striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic – that special, so much so that many big clubs are hunting after he announced on Tuesday he will be returning back to coaching after his sabbatical in New York?

There have always been two viewpoints regarding Guardiola in terms of his time at Barca: one pessimistic; the other more positive.

The pessimistic view has seen claims that he was already blessed with some wonderful individuals in the Catalan squad, such as the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and captain courageous Carles Puyol, which led many to question whether Guardiola was simply lucky to have these players in his squad to achieve such massive success.

But it takes a special manager to mould a team, and along with the famous tiki-taka system, Barca became the team to beat in Europe and is still that under Guardiola’s former right-hand man Tito Vilanova.

Every young coach has aspired to be like Guardiola, and this was not down to his sense of fashion or well-mannered approaches during press conferences, but his ability to motivate his team and do it by playing football the way it’s meant to be played… beautifully. 

Even an experienced coach such as Real Madrid’s “Special One”, Jose Mourinho, had developed an “obsession” for Guardiola because of the way their rivalry had sparked a great sense of willingness for the Real coach to beat his arch-nemesis to the La Liga title last season, which Los Blancos did achieve.
 
One of Guardiola’s greatest assets as a manager is his ability of being a good man-manager.

When he arrived in 2008, players like Deco and Ronaldinho – who were vital cogs under former Barca boss Frank Rijkaard – were axed by Guardiola and the following season it was the turn of Samuel Eto’o.

Guardiola had already found his sense of perfection, and installed that same belief and tactics in the Barca squad which has become the benchmark of every team in world football to follow.

He has always done things his way and never faced interference from the Barca’s hierarchy, even if the end of Guardiola’s tenure was marred by unnecessary political debacles from the Catalan board and certain player unrest within the squad.  

So which club has the upper hand in landing Guardiola?

After Chelsea fired Roberto Di Matteo in November, club owner Roman Abramovich has made no secret of his desire to bring Guardiola to Stamford Bridge.

But we are all too familiar with the way the billionaire Russian handles coaches who fail to deliver what he wants, and does Guardiola really need to have this unnecessary pressure should he choose north-London?

The investment is there under Abramovich, but he will need to relinquish some power to Guardiola if Chelsea are to build long-term dominance in England and in Europe.

The link to Manchester City is also lent a degree of credibility with current coach Roberto Mancini facing increasing pressure after failing to lead his team to the knockout phases of the Champions League for a second consecutive year. Mancini’s 2011/2012 champions also sit seven points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United.

The fact that Guardiola’s former colleagues Ferren Soriano and Txiki Begiristain sit on City’s board may be the deciding factor should City’s Abu Dhabi owners want the former Barca coach.

So whichever club Guardiola chooses - be it one of the English giants, Bayern Munich, AC Milan or Paris Saint-Germain – one thing will be certain.

The “philosopher” will do things his way and club owners and presidents will have to give up some of their powers at their clubs in order for Guardiola to make their teams a force domestically and in Europe.


Fahraaz Patel is a local sports writer and sub-editor.