What Future Holds for FC Barcelona's Catalan Head Coach Josep Guardiola?
He came with no expectation to win big immediately, and was never a "safe option" like Jose Mourinho, as Barcelona knew a young, only 37 when appointed, inexperienced coach will take time to settle and put forward his soccer philosophy but what he has since achieved is incredible and unparalleled in terms of success. Youngest coach ever to win UEFA Champions League and to top it all, six trophy haul in a single year.
Even with this success Guardiola remains humble (like his beginning at Barça as a ball boy) and vary of future challenges while acknowledging that such success would be difficult to repeat for them and all saying "The future is dark" and "beating this [six trophy win] is impossible.
We would be wrong to compare other years with what we have done in this one. What we need to keep doing is keep working. The fans will continue to be proud of us if we work."
After only one year with FC Barcelona B, the former defensive midfielder of the famous Dream Team of 1990s led them to Segunda División B. When appointed as coach, he moved quickly to put his foot down and enforce his approach. Messi recently said that "Guardiola is more strict while Rijkaard gave us more freedom, but unfortunately we couldn't handle it."
Likes of party boy Ronaldinho, and others including Deco, Samuel Eto’o, and Gianluca Zambrotta, along with Giovani Dos Santos, were shown the door quickly. In came Dani Alves, Seydou Keita, Gerrard Pique and young La Masia graduates like Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriquez.
Where Frank Rijkaard’s overly laid-back style of coaching had caused indiscipline (with only assistant Henk Ten Cate believed to be his savior in the locker room issues), Guardiola brought strict discipline, strong work ethic, commitment, personal touch in communicating, removed sluggishness, and ditched players now mostly going on reputations rather than performances.
Through his near compulsive attention to detail, determination, and analytical mentality, he converted an underperforming team into world-conquers both in terms of trophies and fans.
Penalties ensued for indiscipline and even slight infringements of rules he laid out. If a player got late for training then €6,000/minute fine was handed out, if missed breakfast then €500/instance, and €1,000 for not reaching home by midnight.
Emphasis was put on diet, and physical fitness. Getting Lionel Messi off his favorite steak and cola at a local Argentinean restaurant "Las Cuartetas" is jokingly considered his top accomplishment by some.
He is remembered as The Wise One at Barça’s famed academy La Masia. At age 19 he became part of the Dream Team which European Player of the Century and former Barça coach Johan Cruyff masterminded.
Legacy of that era, having origins in Dutch Total Football, still carries on to this day in the way Barça play, its 4-3-3 formation and incorporation youth in its first team. The message was and continues to be "receive, pass, offer, receive, pass, offer" and “be in the right place at the right time, not too early, not too late."
Guardiola is said to have "suckled from the teat of ¬Johan Cruyff" and was brought on by president Joan Laporta with his advice to coach Barça so he could move forward on the path Cruff took Barça in his time. Guardiola said "we are sons of the Dream Team, trying to emulate them."His former youth team coach Carles Rexach said of him "Pep knows Barcelona better than anyone."
He wants Barça to play obsessively possessive, stifling, offensive beautiful game in the opponent’s half but forwards also coming back to help out in defense. “I am happy when the ball is in the opponent's half, and unhappy when it is in our half. The way we know is to go forward, and that is what we will do.”
Barça proved that beautiful game, though inherently risky, and competitiveness is compatible with winning. He carries the spirit of Barça in wanting to play good soccer, not getting fixated on winning and he has showed great success is possible that way.
However, he has also received little criticism especially in his mid-game tactics to give desired orientation to the course of play when faced with dogmatic defense and/or managing substitutions.
With all success and compliments coming his way, who can now imagine Guardiola without Barça or vice versa but presently there is a cloud of doubt looming around his future at Camp Nou.
He has only six months remaining on his contract and in spite of efforts by the club to get his signature on a reportedly open-ended contract by initiating talks with his agent Josep Maria Orobitg. He is silent and contractual talks remain suspended.
Speculation is rife that he might be holding out to see what happens and who succeeds in the next year’s elections though Laporta has dispelled that notion. Laporta has refused to put pressure on him to sign and also denied financial issues to be a cause of delay. Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport even went on to say that Guardiola may end up in Italy come next year.
But club is hopeful and patient as Laporta told radio RAC1 "it is very important that he takes his time and that he is completely convinced of having made the right choice".
Rumors declare that Guardiola can opt for length of his contract and will have right to rescind if he would find working conditions unsuitable.
Yet, perhaps Guardiola’s attitude is understandable. He wants to take a patient, methodical and slow but steady approach, as is his usual, before deciding his future and putting pen to the paper. He told Laporta that “he needs time on the decision to renew.”
Laporta told press that "we know he is very thoughtful and he knows better than anyone what is good for the club. He wants to, is willing to do, but there are many factors that require reflection, however I am personally optimistic about him continuing” and also expressed hope that “Pep will decide before the end of the season."
There are other stories that Guardiola might be suffering from physical and mental fatigue after a hectic year and half at the helm and thinking of taking rest as reported by La Razon that “The coach knows that there is no better time to rest than when you are at the summit. It’s been many months of work, many hours invested and a lot of lost hair.”
A favorable decision on the part of Guardiola would eliminate speculation and reduce worries of current regime while also making life easier for the next Barça president while eliminating controversial political promises by the presidential hopefuls to bolster their election campaigns.
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