by Simon Magner
Earlier this week it was confirmed that ex-Barcelona player and coach Pep Guardiola would make his return to football at German giants Bayern Munich. Much speculation has surrounded the destination of one of football’s most sought after men with Chelsea often touted as the likely club.
As ever, debate erupted across social networking sites and forums as to Guardiola’s suitability and credentials as a “top manager”. With many believing Guardiola to be overrated, others believe him to be one of the greatest modern managers of the game. Most that claim Guardiola as “overrated” are the football supporters who prefer Real Madrid to Barcelona, or who think Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Messi. Whether Spanish or not, in essence it’s a biased opinion.
Despite my preference to Barca over Real, or my belief that Messi is or very soon will be the greatest player the world has seen, I do think Guardiola has to be considered one of the greatest managers for the simple reason that he has won everything.
I know some will point to the fact he inherited the vast majority of his team, not only that but the team he inherited is considered to be probably the best club side certainly since the AC Milan team of the late 80’s, possibly since the original Real Madrid “Galacticos” of the 50’s, and maybe even of all time? Yet the only way a manager can measure his success, or indeed a team for that matter, is by the amount of trophies that they have won.
The greatest – the likes of Ferguson, Shankley, Capello, Clough and Lippi – have won the top prizes consistently, and although Guardiola’s tenure as Barca manager wasn’t as long lived as some of his peers, he has managed to win football’s top trophies. For his trophy haul alone, he deserves our respect.
The reason why he should be considered one of the greatest is ironically enough one of the excuses used for him being overrated – the team he inherited. The proof lies not too far away at the home of long time Barcelona rivals Real Madrid.
Having the best players in the world doesn’t necessarily make you the best team in the world, as Real found out the hard way.
In 2000 Flortino Perez was elected president of Real Madrid, with one of his ambitions being the introduction of the new “Galacticos” project. The idea of the project was to attract the biggest and best players in the world to the team with one or two marquis signings a year. The mixture between the cream of world football and home grown talent including players like Raul and Iker Casillas was supposed to usher in a new age of dominance for Real Madrid. In reality it was a complete failure. With only one La Liga and one European Cup success over a 6 year period, Real and Perez were forced to admit defeat and over a two year period from the departures of Luis Figo in 2005 to David Beckham in 2007, dismantled the team.
Ironically this coincided with the resurgence of a Barcelona team who had struggled after the departure of Luis Figo (a transfer considered to be the beginning of the Real Madrid “Galacticos” era) with the likes of Ronaldinho spearheading the revival and the new look Barcelona team.
However it was Guardiola when he took the reins in 2008 that changed the style of play that Barcelona is synonymous for now. With the departure of stars such as Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel Eto’o, Guardiola built the team around the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and the emerging Messi.
Guardiola may have inherited the team, but it was he who built the dynasty we see today. Rijkaard, Ronaldinho et al built the foundations, but it was Guardiola who re-introduced the “tiki-taka” style of football and despite having made an unbelievable 100 Barcelona appearances by the age of 20, it was only really under the tutelage of Guardiola that Lionel Messi flourished and blossomed into the player he is today.
When Guardiola took on the top job he already had an advantage. Having played for Barca all his adult life, on his retirement he went straight into a coaching role at his boyhood team, and from there the top job eventually beckoned.
His time at Munich will be a complete contrast, and we will truly learn whether he has the right to be considered “the Greatest” alongside some of the legends that have and continue to grace the game today.
I firmly believe his time with Barcelona will stand him in good stead, and if he is afforded the time at Munich to try and build something similar to what he had at Barca, I can only see more success for the German giants in the not too distant future.