Pep Guardiola’s magnificent achievements with Barcelona offer no guarantee of success with Bayern Munich…
Pep Guardiola is the most successful manager in the history of Barcelona Football Club – thirteen trophies in four seasons is quite remarkable, but football purists will argue that of equal importance to his legacy is a brand of football that has redefined the ‘beautiful game’.
As Arsene Wenger would surely testify, marrying up attractive football and regular silverware is arguably the holy grail for any Head Coach and Guardiola did this consistently from his appointment in 2008 – he deserves many of the plaudits that have subsequently come his way.
Referred to as some kind of managerial panacea by many in the media, Guardiola’s success with Barcelona should certainly be admired and respected, but it also needs to be put in perspective and I don’t believe we’ll really know how good a head coach he is for some time yet.
True managerial greatness can only be achieved by longevity, whether that is Sir Alex Ferguson‘s achievements over twenty-five years at one club or the repeated short-term success at different clubs of men like Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink.
These are mangers worth their weight in gold because they have a proven track record of getting it right a lot more than they get it wrong – in such a crazy and unpredictable profession they’re as close as it gets to a guaranteed standard.
For all his success with Barcelona, Guardiola is still a relative novice in football management when compared to some of the names I’ve already mentioned – his only prior managerial role was one season with Barcelona B in 2007/08.
Guardiola’s record in the transfer market with Barcelona was decidedly mixed. There were undoubtedly successes like Gerard Pique, Dani Alves, David Villa and Javier Mascherano – while more recent purchases like Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas also look like being shrewd aquisitions.
Some that didn’t work out so well were Alexander Hleb, Martin Caceres, Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Keirrison – although the short-time Zlatan Ibrahimovic spent with Barcelona perhaps asks the most questions of Guardiola’s judgement.
Signed for a reported €69.5m from Internazionale in July 2009, in a move which saw Samuel Eto’o go in the opposite direction, the Cameroon international valued at €20m as part of the deal.
The previous season Eto’o had scored 36 goals in 52 appearances for Barcelona, he went on to win a treble in his first season at Inter, while Ibrahimovic proved to be a very expensive ‘plan B’ experiment that lasted just one season before a loan move to AC Milan, eventually made permanent for a cut-price €24m.
Of course it is only fair to point out that even the most successful managers with proven track-records can still make expensive mistakes in the transfer market – although few, if any, inherit such a wealth of talent.
Guardiola could manage for a-thousand years and still never have a trio of players as gifted as Messi, Xavi and Iniesta – all of them schooled in the expectations and traditions of their football club at La Masia, just as Guardiola was himself.
Carlos Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Victor Valdes and Pedro are others to come through the famed academy, which Guardiola benefited so much from.
It’s easy to describe that sort of inheritance as ‘lucky’ but there was nothing fortunate about the way Guardiola improved those gifted individuals even further and molded them into a such a consistently brilliant team, in an environment where every dropped point is greeted with the most detailed of post-mortems.
Real Madrid’s first ‘Galactico’ experiment and other moments in history tell us eleven great players don’t always make a great team and for that reason it’s understandable that Guardiola’s qualities appeal to any owner or chief executive with a high-profile ‘project’ that needs managing.
Now the batteries are recharged and he’s rediscovered his passion for football following a sabbatical in Manhattan, it is vital that Guardiola hits the ground running at Bayern, as we all know how quickly even the highest of managerial stock can fall.
Chelsea ownwer Roman Abramovich, a long-term admirer of Guardiola’s, parted company with Andre Villas-Boas just nine months after paying €15m for a man who’d won a treble with FC Porto the year before. And how many people would now regard Guardiola’s predecessor at Barcelona, Frank Rijkard, as a managerial heavy-weight? Six years after winning a UEFA Champions League and La Liga ‘double’ with Barca, the Dutchman has just been sacked by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation, with the middle-east nation eliminated from qualification for 2014 World Cup.
He may have already won thirteen major titles, but Pep Guardiola’s biggest challenges are still ahead if he’s to prove he’s a great manager, and not just a good manager of a great team.