In 2012 Pep Guardiola moved to New York for a 12 months’s sabbatical. After simply 4 seasons in teaching, and 14 trophies with FC Barcelona, the Catalan had turn into essentially the most admired determine in his occupation, however he wanted new concepts. He stole them in New York: sitting in economics courses at Columbia College, obsessing over Barack Obama’s re-election victory and hanging out with Woody Allen and the chess participant Garry Kasparov. Guardiola “footballised” everything he learned, making use of the insights to his personal subject.
One evening over dinner, Kasparov instructed him: “The second I received my second World Championship in 1986, I knew who would beat me ultimately.” “Who?” requested Guardiola. “Time,” replied Kasparov.
Time destroys particularly quick in soccer. Mighty coaches continually fall into obsolescence. “Soccer is evolution,” Guardiola instructed the writer Martí Perarnau. Solely he retains updating himself. This week he clinched the English championship with Manchester Metropolis, his ninth league title in three nations in 12 teaching seasons. On Could 29, Metropolis meet Chelsea within the Champions League ultimate. How did Guardiola turn into and stay soccer’s supreme coach?
The bricklayer’s son was born 50 years in the past in Santpedor, a village so Catalan that many locals spoke the forbidden regional language all through Normal Franco’s dictatorship. As a youngster in FC Barcelona’s youth academy, he was found by Barça’s head coach, Johan Cruyff, the chief inventor of Twenty first-century soccer. Guardiola was stick-thin, gradual and couldn’t sort out, however Cruyff caught him within the first group, as a result of Guardiola might learn the sport. The slowest participant moved the ball quickest.
“I knew nothing about soccer till I met Cruyff,” Guardiola mentioned later. At Barça, he absorbed the rules of cruyffismo: play one-touch diagonal passes within the opposition’s half, win the ball again the moment you lose it, create house or shrink it, and die with your individual concepts.
He all the time saved studying, about every little thing from Catalan poetry to basketball techniques. In 2008, after he had coached Barça’s B group for a season, the membership shocked soccer by appointing the 37-year-old rookie as head coach. Inside 10 months he had received Spain’s league and cup, and the Champions League. “That’s the tip of my profession, received every little thing already,” he joked, or half-joked.
He was a cruyffista coach, however with extra rigour and emotional intelligence than Cruyff. The Dutchman himself as soon as named Guardiola and Dennis Bergkamp as essentially the most affordable, farsighted gamers he’d coached: “You can ask them for recommendation, as a result of they might take into consideration different folks’s issues.” Guardiola might additionally articulate his concepts to his gamers. He drilled them within the “15-pass rule” (full 15 passes earlier than attempting to attain) and the “five-second rule” (after shedding the ball, spend 5 seconds chasing round to win it again).
He was as a lot video analyst as coach. In a workday, he would possibly spend 90 minutes coaching his group and 6 hours in his workplace, watching footage of future opponents. He would watch, he said, till “lastly the sensible, terrific second comes that provides sense to my occupation”. In a burst of inspiration lasting maybe a minute, he would determine the opposition’s deadly flaw and realise, “I’ve it. We’ve received.” Most famously, one night in Could 2009, he noticed the hole in entrance of Actual Madrid’s defence that his greatest participant Lionel Messi would exploit. Guardiola’s buddy Xavier Sala i Martín, the Columbia College economist, in contrast him to the Spanish “fast-fashion” retailer Zara, which might put out a brand new assortment fortnightly: “Pep is fixed innovation.”
Hardly anybody voluntarily leaves FC Barcelona, or retains innovating even when supreme, however Guardiola realised that studying required emigration. After New York, he took his spouse Cristina and three kids to Germany, the place he up to date himself at Bayern Munich: he oriented his group’s play extra in the direction of the centre of the sector, and absorbed a few of German soccer’s tempo. Guardiola’s intention has by no means been merely to win. It’s to play the very best soccer of the current.
He loves golf, movie, consuming and ingesting, and bemoaning Spanish politics, however by no means for lengthy. His aide Manuel Estiarte, as soon as a legendary water polo participant, came up with the “law of 32 minutes”: that’s essentially the most Guardiola can go with out fascinated about soccer.
In 2016, Manchester Metropolis got here wooing him. He went largely as a result of he trusted Metropolis’s entrance workplace: chief govt Ferran Soriano and director of soccer Txiki Begiristain had labored with him at Barça.
Guardiola has saved innovating. Generally his experiments fail, however in the event you’re not experimenting, you’re not evolving. This season he often fielded an 11 without a striker. Even in November, when City were tenth in the league, he was delighted to be the place he was, in wet Manchester, main a receptive, unsatiated group. He has the reward, uncommon in his hysterical business, of evaluating course of slightly than outcomes.
However the place would possibly he replace himself subsequent? He received’t discover a higher-level, extra frictionless working setting than Metropolis. “I have been in Spain, I have been in Germany and I can say this [England] is the toughest league,” he says. Nonetheless, he’ll preserve evolving, as a result of his worldview requires it. “My kids shall be higher than I’m,” he explains. “And the coaches of the long run will undoubtedly surpass me.” However maybe not these of the current.