Pep Guardiola – the perfectionist who demands domination
Spaniard has won a combined 19 trophies with Bayern Munich and Barcelona and is sure to be courted by any major European club looking for a new coach
Speculation is sure to fly around Europe’s top leagues after Bayern Munich announced on Sunday that Pep Guardiola will leave in May with the Spaniard already linked to Manchester City.
With Munich eight points clear in the German league, Guardiola jetted off to Spain to be with his family for Christmas, leaving chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to announce Carlo Ancelotti will coach Bayern next season.
It means the self-confessed perfectionist, who has won a combined 19 trophies with Bayern and Barcelona, will now be courted by any major European club looking for a new coach.
On Friday, City’s manager Manuel Pellegrini had to brush off speculation that Guardiola is being lined up to take his job at the end of the season.
Guardiola has also been linked with Chelsea since Jose Mourinho was sacked by the Blues for a second time last Thursday.
But so far, the 44-year-old Guardiola has given no indication as to his future plans.
Touted as one of the best coaches of his generation, Guardiola is used to frenzied speculation over his future having sensationally quit Barcelona in 2012 despite being the most successful coach in the club’s history.
His four-year reign at the Camp Nou is known as Barca’s golden age after he transformed a misfunctioning club into what is widely regarded as the best club team ever to play the game.
However, ever since he said he “could see myself coaching here one day”, in reference to Manchester United a few years ago, his name has never been far from English tabloid speculation.
Yet in January 2013 he signed a three-year deal, worth a reported €22 million (HK$185.35 million), to start coaching Bayern from July that year.
The squad, already a dominant force in the Bundesliga, having won the treble in 2013 of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup, soon became almost unbeatable at home.
This season, Bayern have lost only two of 26 games and in the last two years swept five trophies, but the most-desired Champions League has so far eluded Guardiola in Germany.
The team is so successful that ex-Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has said it would be better for the Bundesliga if Guardiola goes, as it would make the league “more exciting”.
Known for being a perfectionist, Guardiola complained after Bayern routed Arsenal 5-1 earlier this year that the 66 per cent possession his side had was just not good enough.
“What I want, my desire, is to have 100 per cent possession,” said the coach dubbed the best tactician by Dutch winger Arjen Robben.
Guardiola was born in Santpedor, just an hour’s drive from the Catalan capital, and he was nurtured through the Barca youth team, serving as a ball boy, before legendary Dutch coach Johan Cruyff spotted his potential.
“Cruyff built the cathedral. We only maintained it,” Guardiola once said of the man he described as his most important coaching influence.
Guardiola became part of Cruyff’s dream team at Barcelona, which also comprised Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov and Ronald Koeman, making his name two decades ago as a tenacious midfielder known for his tough tackling and astute reading of the game.
Guardiola eventually went on to build Barca’s second dream team that included Argentinian prodigy Lionel Messi.
He infused the team with a fluid passing and pressing game that tormented opponents. In the first year alone, they won six trophies, beating Manchester United 2-0 to win the Champions League.
After another Champions League in 2011 and two more La Liga crowns, Barca’s reign in Spain under Guardiola was finally ended when Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid won La Liga in 2012.
An exhausted Guardiola, who had become worn down by the political machinations at the club, promptly resigned, saying there wasn’t any more he could do.
“We were playing brilliantly but I was on my knees and had no new tactical ideas left. That was why I left,” he said.
Although capped 47 times for Spain, Guardiola, who is openly secessionist, has always said his heart is with the Catalan team – an unofficial squad that plays friendly matches.
“If a Catalan state had existed, I would have played for Catalonia, because I was born in Santpedor”, he said.