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Pep Guardiola: The World’s Greatest Free Agent

Pep Guardiola has announced his departure from Barcelona at a press conference today. We assess his tenure at Camp Nou and look at what next for the Spaniard.

Pep Guardiola has announced his departure from Barcelona at a press conference today – after informing his players that he would not be renewing his contract – so naturally thoughts turn to the assessment of his tenure at Camp Nou. With 13 trophies to his name in four seasons as the Barca manager (including two Champions League and three La Liga titles), Guardiola has consistently remained an enigma, famously preferring to sign one-year contracts for the past two seasons.

“That passion so necessary to continue, so the players listen to you disappears after four years,” he said. “You can only recover that by resting. It would have been a bad idea to continue. Perhaps we wouldn’t have gone wrong but I had the perception it would. I could not run the risk that it would go wrong. It is my time to go.” (source: Sky Sports News)

Many commentators have suggested that Guardiola is perhaps the greatest football manager the sporting world has seen in a long time. Others would argue that it must be easy to coach a team packed with such mercurial talent like Lionel Messi – scoring over 50 goals per season under the Guardiola reign – and therefore any suggestion that this is the world’s greatest manager could be erroneous. Add to this the disappointing Champions League semi-final defeat at the hands of Chelsea and a disastrous El Clásico defeat at home which could certainly deny them another La Liga title; did the Guardiola critics have a solid argument?

A Meteoric Rise to Glory

It’s no secret that Guardiola’s rise has been successful. Stepping up to the plate from B team manager to first team leader has been nothing short of extraordinary. He is the most successful manager in Barcelona’s history thanks to his accumulation of titles and a Primera Division title during his first season at the helm. Various reasons could be allocated to his overall success, including: a shuffling of the squad that saw an emphasis on youth talent particularly from the La Masia academy rather than stalwarts like Ronaldinho, comprehensive thrashings of traditional rivals Réal and becoming the first club side to win six major titles in one calendar year. Guardiola has undoubtedly placed emphasis on free-flowing football, adding an aspect of “beautiful” to the game.

The Real “Beautiful Game”

At a time when football seems to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, the Catalonians are an example of aesthetic elegance and perhaps that is due to their perfectionist manager, who is famously his own worst critic. As a fan, the skill displayed in their game is breath taking and the most extraordinary aspect of their play is their pace and creativity. Most of all, Guardiola commanded the trust and respect of his players.

A Managerial Rival

Having a team full of incredible players, with Lionel Messi providing the finishing touch, might make life a little easier but it doesn’t always guarantee success. The appointment of José Mourinho by arch-rivals Réal sought to end Guardiola’s dominance, which was rather telling since a Mourinho-led Inter had stopped the Barca juggernaut in its tracks and denied them a successful defence of their Champions League trophy. It would be justified to say that Mourinho has proved a suitable challenge for those in Camp Nou. However, it cannot be denied that Guardiola is an extremely capable tactician and advocate of both physical endurance and pitch psychology.

The Future for this Innovator

The question of whether Pep Guardiola is the best manager ever is open to debate and it’s important to remember that he is still only 41 and has the rest of his career to help us make up our minds. What we do know is he is expected to take a sabbatical. It is a blow for the Barca fans the world over, but his legacy will be felt as the innovator of poetic football and general of the best team ever to have come close to football perfection. At time of going to press we are unsure of where his next destination is, despite being linked with major clubs all over Europe. In the conference, he said: “I think that sincerely that the next person will have things to bring that can’t. Every day during four years, the demands are very high, the pressure, the necessary energy to push the players and enjoy it. I need to rest and move away.”

What is your assessment of the Guardiola legacy? Could he go to another team and lead them to glory?

This post was again contributed by Leyla, an avid football fan and up-and-coming sports blogger. She is currently writing on behalf of Nuffield Health, who focus on providing fitness jobs for sports specialists.

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