Sunday, 26 May 2013
Pep Guardiola - The Luckiest Man In Football
Sport is full of stories about people getting lucky breaks, being in the right place at the right time and of people making the most of the opportunities handed to them but in my opinion these phrases sum up one man better than most. That man is new Bayern Munich Head Coach, Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola must be one of the luckiest people in world football. He was a very good player winning six La Liga's, two Copa del Rey's, four Spanish Super Cups, a European Cup, a European Cup Winners Cup, two European Super Cups and an Olympic gold medal but it's since his playing career ended in 2006 that his fortunes have really picked up.
Some ex players go into the media, some go into minor coaching roles and some go into management. Guardiola was fortunate that he was so highly thought of at Barcelona from his playing days that they decided to hand him the job of manager of their B team in 2007. After a successful season he was promoted to manage the first team when Frank Rijkaard left the club. After just one season in charge of a team playing in the third tier of Spanish football, Guardiola now found himself in charge of one of the biggest clubs in world football and a team that had been crowned European Champions just two years before.
I can't think of many other managers who had such a quick rise to the top and a look at the other modern era managers who have won multiple European Cups shows that the rest of the games top coaches had to earn their places at the top. Guardiola has to consider himself very fortunate as he inherited a fantastic side with players like Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o.
As much as people like to talk about Barcelona bringing through their own talent it's not entirely true. Obviously, they have brought some fantastic players through their youth teams but they also backed Guardiola in the transfer market. In his four seasons at the club they spent hundreds of millions on Dani Alves, Seydou Keita, Gerard Pique, Alexander Hleb, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, David Villa, Javier Mascherano, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. That's quite a list of talent and whilst they didn't always work out, the point is he was given the best players to do his job from the very beginning.
Guardiola took advantage of this opportunity and rewarded Barcelona with a very successful period in their history. In his four year spell he won fourteen trophies; three La Liga titles, two Copa Del Rey's, three Spanish Super Cups, two European Cup's, two European Super Cup's and two Club World Cup's. Nobody can argue with the trophies he won in his time at Barcelona but I do feel there are questions about how much of a part he played in this success.
The Barcelona squad he took charge of has been considered by many to have been the greatest club side of all time. Lionel Messi is one of the best players I've ever saw. Xavi and Iniesta are legendary figures too and were at the peak of their powers throughout the years that Guardiola managed them. Those three alone could have pushed any side to the top of Europe but Guardiola also had world class players all over the park to support them. Time will tell how good Guardiola is but he certainly landed on his feet when he got the Barcelona job.
After resigning last year Guardiola said he was taking a year out and despite being linked with many top jobs he has stuck to his decision and has taken a year away from the game although he did announce his plans for next season back in January. Bayern Munich announced that Pep would be taking over the German giants from next season as their current manager, Jupp Heynckes was set to retire.
Since then, Bayern Munich have secured the Bundesliga title by a huge margin and also set about the Champions League knock out stages in amazing fashion, obliterating Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona on the way to their third Champions League Final in four years. Bayern managed to squeeze past their German rivals, Borussia Dortmund in the Final and now have the chance to secure a famous treble when they face Stuttgart in the German Cup Final. They have already announced that Dortmund star, Mario Gotze will join them next season and it is also expected that his team mate, Robert Lewandowski will join him in Munich next season. Once again, Guardiola seems to be landing on his feet by taking over a team in a position of strength.
Guardiola will go to Munich this summer inheriting the best squad in Europe and Bayern have always been one of the biggest spenders in football so he will be well backed. I do like him but I think he still has a point to prove. Most managers could make a success of managing Barcelona and if he needs an example of how the grass isn't always greener, he should look at the man he replaced.
Frank Rijkaard had a successful spell in charge of Barcelona but followed it up with unsuccessful spells at Galatasaray and Saudi Arabia. Whether Guardiola is a truly elite coach or just another Frank Rijkaard remains to be seen but he has certainly enjoyed a fair share of luck in the fact that he has arrived at two great clubs at just the right time.