Josep Guardiola Sala is a household name in football. He has been one of the best three coaches of the last decade. His astronomical rise to the top rung of the football chain caught many by surprise. While many coaches work their way to the top, Guardiola started at the top – a place he has maintained ever since. He was an inexperienced young coach when Barcelona made him head coach. His appointment seemed like a bad choice due to the dire state Frank Rijkaard left the team. It wasn’t.
Within a few years, he proved his doubters wrong. As a disciple of Joan Cruyff, he was expected to play an attractive and expansive brand of football. He did not disappoint in this regard. He rolled out an elegant style of play characterized by quick passing. His reward was an unprecedented treble of La Liga, UCL, and the Copa Del Rey in his first season. From then on, he never looked back. The titles kept coming in. His reign as Barcelona head coach began after the Spanish senior national team’s first Euro triumph.
From Barca, he moved to Bayern Munich. He currently leads Manchester City in the Premier League.
Two things stand out during Guardiola’s coaching career with Barca. One was his spending habits. The second was his reliance on Messi. On the surface, this looks like a lame attempt at denting Pep’s impressive CV. An in-depth study of his transfer dealings as a coach lends credence to this criticism. In four seasons at Barcelona, he spent 341.5 million euros. In his three seasons as coach of Bayern Munich, he spent 203.7 million euros. At Manchester City, he has so far spent a whopping 762.3 million euros in four seasons. Total spending in his coaching career is over 1.3 billion euros.
A TACTICAL GENIUS
On several occasions, Guardiola has credited Marcelo Bielsa for his coaching style. However, Bielsa’s CV pales in comparison to Guardiola’s. It is not enough to have a coaching philosophy or style; do you have players that can execute the philosophy? Bielsa left Lazio after two days, claiming that the board was unwilling to get him the players he needed. For Guardiola, he had the duo of Iniesta and Xavi to call on as well as the once-in-a-generation talent of Messi. With Messi, he delivered massive tactical masterstrokes. He preyed on the Argentine’s fluid movement and ball confidence to make him a floating centre forward. This position was soon tagged ‘false nine’.
Guardiola wasn’t done tweaking and turning players when he left Barca. He exhibited ‘madness’ at Bayern Munich this time with a veteran – the captain of the team. Philipp Lahm was one of the most respected fullbacks in the world and had just lifted the Champions League a few months back as a marauding fullback. Guardiola had no plans to play him at the back; he played him in midfield to dictate the play. This move surprised many considering the player’s age, but Lahm was more than capable. He owned and bossed the position to justify his coach’s faith.
At Manchester City too he resurrected the inverted full back play. In this maneuver, a fullback shifts inward to saturate the centre of the pitch. This is against the conventional method of pushing forward during an offensive.
Guardiola has had the same philosophy albeit with little changes to suit situational demands. His spending at Manchester City which has landed them a ban from the Champions League is not enough reason to label Pep a fraud. You cannot blame a child for spending his father’s money as long as he delivers. Same can be said of Guardiola, the fact that he hasn’t delivered the CL trophy yet does not make him a fraud.