Joseph Guardiola's managerial career couldn't have gotten off to a better start. Winning six trophies, including the Champions League, in his first year as the coach of Barcelona has made him one of the most sought after managers in world football.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United's legendary manager, took 12 years to win Europe's elite trophy—Champions League. In comparison, Guardiola's instant success was enviably glamorous.
Make no mistake, you wouldn't get many better 39-year-old managers in football. But was all his success due to his effort and talent?
Guardiola's vision and philosophy are praiseworthy. He might have only been a sluggish defensive midfielder in his playing career, but he wants his team to play fast-paced, not really fast, attacking football. He might not have scored many goals in his playing career, but he wants his team to score a multitude of goals.
As a player, Guardiola was lauded by many for his skills and intelligent play; now as a manager, his ambition and tactics are appreciated by many.
Guardiola was lucky to take over the reins of a very good team from Rijkaard, the man who preceded Guardiola as the manager of the Catalon Giants
He had the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Leo Messi, Samuel Eto'o, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdez in his armoury—a powerful spine to start with. In addition to that, Guardiola pulled off some key signings to strengthen his already strong squad.
Dani Alves and Gerard Pique, since their transfer to Barcelona in 2008, played a major role in Guardiola's sextuplet-winning side. Along with the new signings, Guardiola also promoted Sergio Busquets and Pedro to the first team. In hindsight, that turned out to be a good move for both Barcelona and Spain. Busquets may not be the most talented of players, but his role for Barcelona can't be down-played. You can't build an enchanting mansion without a strong foundation.
At the other end of the scale, some of the other transfer dealings of Guardiola pushed the club backwards financially.
As successful as he was in his two years at the helm of Barcelona, Guardiola's parsimonious approach shouldn't be neglected.
In short, Barcelona paid a huge price for what they have achieved.
During Guardiola's reign, Barcelona signed Alexander Hleb for close to €17m, Dmytro Chygrynskiy at around €25m, Zlatan Ibrahimovic for €69m (Eto'o+ €49m) and guess what, all three have moved on after being deemed "unfit" for Barcelona's style of play. Just three signings, resulting in a loss of close to €50m, is not what you would like to associate with one of the best managers.
You could only wish he were a bit more prudent. Guardiola's profligacy is hard to interpret when you take a look at the quality of Barcelona's Youth Academy.
Whether profit or loss, what is more heralded is winning silverware.
Two La Liga titles in as many years is no mean feat, but was Guardiola lucky to have begun his crusade at a time when Real Madrid was struggling? That's not the story anymore with master tactician Jose Mourinho leading the Galactico ship with his torpedo Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, back in 2008, Real Madrid was hardly a threat to Barcelona. The Colossal Madrid club was going through a rebuilding process, in fact a buying process, and needed time before being stable enough to challenge for the League title. So you can safely say Guardiola was lucky in that respect.
Real Madrid's encumbrances, plus the highly competitive nature of Spanish first division, meant winning the La Liga was easier than winning the Copa del Rey.
Finally, Guardiola was also lucky to have a player of the calibre of Leo Messi when he took over. No words can express the impact Messi has on this team. Messi contributed more than 80 goals in Guardiola's first two seasons. That many goals from a winger is simply astonishing.
Indubitably, Messi has been Guardiola's lucky charm; the wand you would like to have at any club to wave the magic when things don't go your away. But everyone can't be as fortunate as Guardiola.
All the talk of fortune doesn't take away any credit from Guardiola for what he has done. All the same, you have to be talented as well as lucky to get abundant cash for lavish spending and to inherit a tried and tested team. In that regard he was fortunate enough or maybe more.
What to expect from Guardiola this season?
Guardiola must inspire David Villa to integrate quickly into the Barcelona set-up, without which the Catalan Giants' ongoing season may well fall apart. Although Guardiola would be targeting the hat trick of La Ligas, his flamboyant ride may come to an abrupt halt with Real Madrid, under Mourinho, proving to be a tough nut to crack.
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