No Barcelona coach has won as many trophies in as little time as Pep Guardiola. Still only 40, the former cultured midfielder has steered his hometown club to a dozen titles already, while making them the benchmark by which all other teams are measured.
A consummate strategist and motivator, Guardiola worked his magic again last season as Barça surged to a La Liga and UEFA Champions League double, seeing off rivals of the calibre of Real Madrid and Manchester United with style and panache, and prompting Sir Alex Ferguson to declare them the best team he has ever seen.
Though Guardiola’s charges lost out to Los Merengues in a gripping Copa del Rey final, they went on to claim the Spanish and European Super Cup titles, the prelude to what was his second successful FIFA Club World Cup campaign in December.
Those who have followed Guardiola’s career closely would argue that he has always had the mindset of a leader. By installing the 20-year-old midfielder in his starting XI back in 1991, Johan Cruyff was among the first to pick up on his will to win, vision and charisma.
Captain of the Blaugrana ‘dream team’ of the 1990s, the Spaniard lifted almost every available trophy in 11 seasons as a player at Camp Nou, making 374 appearances for the side along the way. Since taking the coaching reins, Guardiola has proved himself to be a worthy heir to his mentor, club legend Carles Rexach.
Moving to the bench seemed like the obvious next career move for Guardiola and, six months after retiring from playing, he was duly appointed coach of Barcelona’s reserve side in June 2007. There he played a major part in the development of players such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, who would all go on to become major stars at the club.
On 8 May 2008, he replaced Frank Rijkaard at the helm of the Catalan giants’ senior side. Success would follow quickly, and in 2009 Guardiola led his charges to a historic six trophies within the same calendar year.
Cultured, dignified and respectful to opponents, he is also known as a fearsome disciplinarian. He values effort, ambition and hard work, and has little time for individuals not prepared to give their all for the team. In a matter of months, he has won over fans and media alike with a breathless brand of football founded on impeccable ball skills, speed, teamwork and enjoyment of the game.