Barcelona Boss Pep Guardiola: The Best Manager In The World Right Now?
A relative unknown in management when he started just three years ago, Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has taken the football world by storm in recent seasons, eclipsing the 1992 Barca dream team with his latest Champions League win.
Before the former Camp Nou playing legend stepped into one of the biggest managerial jobs in world football, he had just one season's experience as a manager: leading the Barca "B" team to the Tercera División title, the third tier of Spanish football.
So of course, more than a few complaints were made when the novice stepped up to replace Champions League winning manager Frank Rijkaard.
But, after securing an unprecedented Tripla Corona in his first season, followed by two more consecutive La Liga titles and another UEFA Champions League trophy, nobody was complaining anymore.
And after Guardiola became the first ever manager in European football to win the sextuple (following up his treble with the UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and the Supercopa de España), his footballing street cred reached an all new level.
However, despite having the best ever start to a management career than any other currently active manager, many have started doubted the managerial ability of Guardiola.
After all, the side he is managing has seven World Cup winners within its ranks, as well as Lionel Messi, the one player considered to be in the same bracket as Diego Maradona.
Guardiola: The Best in the World?
With a squad of that much talent, how can you not win everything?
It's a message constantly thrown at Pep Guardiola by outsiders who expect success no matter what.
What people may not realise is the strain of managing such a club like Barcelona, who are always the hunted, not the hunters.
With teams getting more and more frustrated by Barca's simply superior style of play, opponents tend to lash out and play anti-football—anything just to stop this Barcelona juggernaut.
Lionel Messi, the fleet-footed goalscoring assassin of Barcelona, gets hacked and lunged at as his counterparts desperately try to prevent him doing the inevitable, i.e. tucking the ball into the back of the net.
And every time he gets taken down, he keeps his cool, gets back up again and just lets the football do the talking. Not only does it take a real man to do that, but it takes a real man to tell Messi to keep going.
Always the hunted, Pep Guardiola has kept his Barcelona team going in the face of adversity, even when the opposition do literally anything it takes merely to stop Barca and their superior footballing style.
It hasn't been easy for Guardiola at all this season. Anti-football, media attacks from Jose Mourinho ("the f**king boss, the f**king man"), accusations of doping and Eric Abidal's liver tumour are just some of the obstacles the manager, and his team, have had to push to one side.
And to put all that to one side, and win La Liga and the Champions League yet again, takes some doing. It takes a real man to focus on just the football, and it takes a real man-manager to get his team doing the same.
The very best managers in the world are perfect in two areas: tactics and man-management. We all know Pep Guardiola is one of the best tacticians in the game.
His unique 4-1-2-3 formation and tiki-taka style, modelled on Johan Cryuff's aforementioned Barca dream team, has been virtually unstoppable for the past three seasons.
Such ability to retain possession and execute perfect passing play, utilising to the absolute maximum the technical ability of the Barcelona players, is an unparalleled footballing philosophy in the sport at the moment.
And combined with the ruthless pressure applied by Barca when they lose the ball, putting the players' match fitness to the best possible use, Pep Guardiola has created the perfect tactical setup.
He's immediately emerged victorious in psychological warfare, something which is rife in top-level football, before a ball is even kicked. Saturday night's Champions League final win over Manchester United at Wembley is perfect proof of that.
As Xavi Hernandez once said of his manager, Pep Guardiola really is a "perfectionist" when it comes to tactics.
But everyone already knows and appreciates that. What they may not appreciate however, is the almost perfect man-management skills this man has.
FC Barcelona have lost just four matches this season. After their agonising Copa Del Rey final defeat to Real Madrid, many took the aura off Barca and gave their Madrid counterparts the backing to reach Wembley and the Champions League final.
What happened next? The Catalan giants rolled up to the Santiago Bernabeu and again stamped their superiority, rising up to anti-football and letting quality shine through.
Despite a brutal bombardment from Real Madrid, Pep Guardiola managed to get his players sticking to their principles, letting football do the talking, even if they too had to play dirty at times to ease their way through.
Throughout Europe, and even the world, Guardiola and his Barcelona team have been hunted like no other, yet every time they're under attack, this Barca side just seem to get closer, being more willing to work for the team, more willing to help out their teammates and more willing to win it for each other.
Pep Guardiola has instilled almost an unparalleled togetherness within this club, proved by the Champions League win on Saturday dedicated to Eric Abidal, the left-back with the fairytale story following life-saving surgery just three months earlier.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson may be the best overall manager currently active, given his track record. After all, football is a results based business, and remarkably, Sir Alex is still in his job because he's been delivering results consistently since 1990.
However, after Barcelona's 3-1 win over United in that final at Wembley, it seems like Pep Guardiola is the best manager in the world at the moment.
Having unassailably the best tactics in football, combined with the best man-management in the sport, makes the man who back in March was hospitalised with a herniated disc, quite possibly the best manager in the world right now.