Pep Guardiola Must Refrain from Signing His Former Players at Manchester City

Graham RuthvenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2016

Bayern's head coach Pep Guardiola waits for the start of the Champions League, round of 16, first-leg soccer match between Juventus and Bayern Munich at the Juventus stadium in Turin, Italy, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Massimo Pinca)
Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

He hasn’t even so much as set foot in the Arndale Centre yet, but Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City is already starting to take shape in the mind of those keenly observing.

The Spaniard is still charged with delivering Champions League glory at Bayern Munich, yet his arrival in England is already the subject of much discussion and anticipation. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14: A Pep Guardiola scarf is carried outside the ground prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at Etihad Stadium on February 14, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The Premier League is ready and poised for the arrival of European football’s greatest coach this summer, with City prepared for something of an ideological awakening.

However, for such an inspiration to take place, Guardiola will need his own players. Not only does he require the right players, he needs the right characters and personalities too. 

Guardiola’s philosophy and methods aren’t conducive with all players, as the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Samuel Eto’o and Mario Gotze would surely attest. And so countless players have been linked with a move to City, as the media attempt to second-guess which players will work well under the former Barcelona coach. 

Per Jamie Jackson of the Guardian, £150 million will be handed to Guardiola this summer, with the Spaniard given hefty backing in the transfer market.

Toni Kroos, Paul Pogba, Ilkay Gundogan and many others are all reportedly on the radar of the Abu Dhabi-owned club. The transfer window might have shut on January 31, but transfer speculation has never been so fierce at the Etihad Stadium. 

Barcelona's coach Josep Guardiola (R) talks with Barcelona's midfielder Sergio Busquets (L) during the Champions League football match between FC Barcelona and Viktoria Plzen at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 19, 2011. AFP PHOTO/LLUIS GENE (
LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

But it is the apparent targeting of Guardiola’s former Barcelona and Bayern Munich stars that is most compelling.

Sergio Busquets has been strongly linked with a switch to the Premier League of late, with Neymar and even Lionel Messi reported targets for City this summer. Guardiola could go back to what he knows bestBarcelonaas he embarks on a new challenge.

He could hardly be blamed for doing so. Guardiola built a true dynasty at the Camp Nou, forging one of the greatest sides to have ever played the game with some of the greatest players to have ever played the game. It would perhaps make sense that he should wish to carry over what worked so well for him at Barcelona. 

However, by raiding his former club in the transfer market Guardiola would only serve to undermine his standing in England before he has even arrived there.

He must build his own team at Manchester City, quelling questions that have been asked of him over three years at Bayern Munich. The right players must be players that he is new to and unfamiliar with. 

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

While Guardiola might be widely considered one of the game’s true managerial greats, he has been undoubtedly the beneficiary of circumstance over the course of his career.

At Barcelona, he made the most of a golden generation, reaping what the club’s famous La Masia youth academy provided him with.

At Bayern Munich, Guardiola took over on the back of a treble-winning season. Jupp Heynckes’ sidejust like Guardiola’s Barcawill go down as one of the best in European football history, and so the Spanish coach was faced with something of an impossible task. How can you improve upon the best? 

Subsequently, Guardiola must win the Champions League with Bayern Munich if he is to secure his legacy at the Bavarian club. Anything less and he will be considered a failure in Germany, taking the country’s most successful and most illustrious team backwards in his three years in charge.

Domestically, however, the former Spain international has managed to sustain Bayern Munich as the Bundesliga’s predominant force with the team Heynckes built as a foundation. He has added his own marks, of course, but fundamentally Guardiola’s side is essentially the same as the one that preceded it. 

Michael Sohn/Associated Press

In the Premier League, though, Guardiola will have the opportunity to build a team from scratch. His legacy might require him to do as much, with the Spaniard accused in some quarters of taking the easy option—selecting the easy job every time he is required to make the next step in his career.

With the backing of City's wealthy owners, Guardiola could essentially pluck whoever he wants from the top tier of the transfer marketand it might be best if he did so. That way he could finally prove his capacity at building an elite team all on his own, answering the one question there is to be asked of him.

According to some, Guardiola is already thinking ahead to next season, with Lothar Matthaus insisting that the Bayern Munich manager will surely be distracted by the task he has taken on.

“Guardiola can say what he wants,” the former Germany midfielder told Sport Bild (h/t the Manchester Evening News). “The squad-planning for Manchester City is too important for him to have his head 100 per cent with Bayern Munich.” He went on to claim that Guardiola is playing a “dangerous double cross” between the Bavarians and the Etihad Stadium club. 

Bayern Munich's Spanish coach Pep Guardiola reacts during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Juventus and Bayern Munich at the Juventus Stadium in Turin on February 23, 2016.   AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP / GIUSEP

Of course, City are already reasonably well-equipped to cope with whatever Guardiola will throw at them.

Players like David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne are among the most technically adept talents in the European game, with the Sky Blues seemingly preparing for the arrival of Guardiola with signings suited to his style of play. 

City have spent the past four years attempting to lure Guardiola to the club, making the kind of signings that would be to his liking, hiring former Barcelona colleagues of his and even building a state-of-the-art youth academy to compete with La Masia.

But in a sense, Guardiola should rip up all that has been laid before him and start again. It might not suit City and the club’s hierarchy, but as far as the Spaniard is concerned, the Premier League presents him with the chance to truly establish his standing at the very top of the game.

In this case, Guardiola must forget what has made him so great up until this point.