Pep Guardiola: Respect to a living legend
He made Barcelona a legacy; he did it his own way; he did it the right way. For this, he deserves utter respect.
Barcelona talisman and manager Pep Guardiola recently announced that he would not be continuing in his managerial role at Barcelona beyond the end of this season. I cannot even begin to describe the profound effect he had on Barcelona and the world of football itself.
Josep Guardiola i Sala or 'Pep' as they call him, was born in Santpedor; a relatively small town in central Catalonia, Spain.
Pep's rise in football was quite a fairy-tale.
He started out working as a ball-boy for FC Barcelona - little did anyone know that this ordinary ball-boy would one day end up as manager of the club.
Eventually, Pep at the tender age of 13, joined the famed football youth academy 'La Masia'. He rose through the ranks of the youth academy in six years, and at the age of 19, made his debut in 1990 against Cádiz CF.
From there on it was a meteoric rise to fame for the young Pep and he became an integral part of Cryuff's Barca side.
The rest, as they say, is history.
He went on to win countless honours as a player including six La Ligas; two Copa Del Rays ; one European Cup ; two UEFA Super Cups and one UEFA Cup Winners Cup. He left the club at the age of 30 and had short stints in Italy, Qatar and Mexico.
Guardiola retired in 2006 at the age of 35 years and only a year later, in June, 2007, he was back home, appointed as the head coach of the Barcelona B side - essentially Barcelona’s youth side.
His chance came in 2008 when, the then president, Joan Laporta handed Pep, the quintessential golden boy, the ticket to the Camp Nou. When Pep took over from Frank Rijkard, the side had just finished 18 points behind Real Madrid in La Liga.
The Barcelona side already contained the now household names; Messi, Xavi and Iniesta but who was to know that this was the man that would mould this team to become one of the most invincible teams the world of football had ever seen?
In came Gerard Pique and Dani Alves; Sergio Busquets was promoted from the B-team and although each of these players had their own individual effect, it was the way Guardiola utilised these players that made an everlasting impact on the face of the team and football all over the world.
Call it Tiki-taka or death by a thousand passes, this Barcelona-style led them to become one of the best sides the world had ever seen, with arguably the most attractive football.
Guardiola was the man who turned Barcelona into a team for which possession was the most important. Under Guardiola, Barcelona had an unmatched work-rate. When they have the ball, they guard their possession like their lives depended on it and when they lost it everyone would contribute in an effort to get it back. It was quite the sight to see some of the best players in the world snapping at their opponent’s heels and harrying them to get the ball back.
Before Guardiola, Messi was a talented winger, who would often cut inside to cause tons of havoc in the opponent penalty area. But Pep saw something else. He slowly but surely converted the winger into a striker - a striker that would play in false number 'Nine' role; acting as a target man but often drifting into key positions to pick up the ball.
It was a massive success, and the 2008-2009 season was the last that Lionel Messi had not scored more than 50 goals in all competitions. Since then he has scored more than 50 every season. Up until this season, where he has currently scored a staggering 65 goals in all competitions.
All this culminated in to Barcelona becoming one of the finest sides Europe had ever seen, mentioned in the same breath as Arrigo Sacchi's famed Milan side, the Real Madrid side of the 1950's, the triple European cup winning Bayern Munich side of the 1970's and Johan Cruyff's Ajax side.
Under the short four year reign of Guardiola, Barcelona won an astounding three La Ligas, two UEFA Champions league titles, two UEFA Super Cups, one Copa Del Ray and two Fifa World Cups.
No manager has had such a massive impact in such a short frame of time, surely Guardiola will go down as one of best managers Barcelona has ever had and the world has ever seen.
Some say he is leaving too early, but in his defence, he has done everything a manager could possibly accomplish in his career. He has won everything possible with Barcelona and perhaps that is why he is looking for greener pastures, yet whatever happens if it were not for Pep Guardiola, the landscape of football today would surely be very different and I doubt Lionel Messi would be the best player in the world.
It is a tribute to how important Guardiola was to Messi's development as the one of the best, if not the best, player in the world. Messi refused to attend Guardiola’s press conference when he knew Pep was about to announce his departure as he felt a 'strong' emotion about it and did not want to show his 'sadness'.
Like him or not, Pep Guardiola was a brilliant manager. Surely someday he'll transform another club the same way he has done to Barcelona. He took a side with raw potential and sculpted it, with his own philosophies on football.
He did it his own way; he did it the right way.
In just four short years, he has left behind an untouchable legacy, for that he deserves utter respect.