There are coaches who celebrate eras, generations, and history. Pep Guardiola is one of them, without any doubt. The Catalan football player, who is currently at Manchester City and celebrates his 52nd birthday today, revolutionized football, even if he sometimes became a caricature. But the record speaks for itself. Memories too. His Barça will forever remain one of the greatest teams of all time.
2009, sexy for history
It may seem crazy that Joan Laporta appointed a young Pep Guardiola as FC Barcelona boss in 2008 to take over from Frank Rijkaard. A big risk to say the least. The Catalan coach, who arrived from Barça B, got off to a poor start with a defeat at Numancia before being checked at the Camp Nou by Racing Santander. It must be said that Guardiola, who decided to part with Deco and Ronaldinho, has a lot of pressure on his shoulders.
But time will prove him right. In a team where Sergio Busquets is starting to show up and Yaya Toure is completely unplayable, Henry, Eto’o and Messi are the attacking towers. River scores in almost every match and especially the 2-6 against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu for one of the most beautiful pages in FC Barcelona history. This will be followed by victories in the Copa del Rey, La Liga and the Champions League, in Rome, against Manchester United. Led by an exceptional team, Pep Guardiola becomes the youngest coach to win the C1. It will go down in history as Andrés Iniesta’s last-minute goal to seal qualification for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
But Barça didn’t stop there, as they won everything in their path in 2009. An unprecedented sextuplet that only Bayern Munich can achieve in 2020.
2011, Guardiola’s finest masterpiece
After a La Liga record* (99 points) in 2010, de Guardiola’s Barça fell short against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals. But this team continues to grow and amaze with its brilliant play, constant pressing and periods of possession that make opponents dizzy. This tiki taka will reach its peak in the next season, 2010-2011. FC Barcelona won La Liga again against Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid (5-0), whom they humiliated at Camp Nou before stopping in the Champions League semi-finals. Leo Messi’s slalom was also the magic of this Barça.
But while he will remain in Catalonia for a final season before making way for the late Tito Vilanova, Barça de Guardiola’s best game will come in the Champions League final on May 28, 2011. Catalan club Sir Alex Ferguson against Manchester United. football poetry for one of the most successful matches that will remain forever. A 3-1 win thanks to goals from Pedro, Messi, Villa and a sense of overwhelming superiority that stunned the world. 66% possession, 12 shots on target against just one for the Mancunians (Rooney’s goal). As Ferguson himself admitted, “it’s impossible to play.” And to close the show, Carles Puyol got Eric Abidal to let him lift the cup with his big ears after a liver tumor. Invincible.
* this record will be broken by Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the 2011/2012 season. With 100 stitches, then Tito Vilanova with Barça in 2012/2013.
14 titles in four seasons
A washed-out, exhausted Pep Guardiola quit as FC Barcelona coach at the end of the 2011-2012 season after winning the last Spanish Cup away from home. The Catalan would return to the Bayern bench in a few years to lead Manchester City and continue to reinvent football. After that, Guardiola leaves 14 titles in four seasons. Arriving on his toes, he was triumphantly parted by his players in front of an eternally grateful Camp Nou. A child of Johan Cruyff’s football, Guardiola took it to a new dimension and turned his Barça into one of the finest teams in the history of the sport.