Seen by many as the best manager in the world, Pep Guardiola will be gracing the Premier League next season with Manchester City, yet questions remain on how he will fare in a league without managing the clearly dominant team?
As the most sought-after manager in the world, City’s announcement that they had secured the services of the Spaniard was lauded as an incredible coup. In his eight years as manager (excluding his one-year sabbatical), Guardiola has amassed the following trophy haul:
FC Barcelona (2008-2012) 14 honours
3 La Liga titles
2 Copa Del Rey
3 Supercopa de Espana
2 UEFA Champions Leagues
2 UEFA Super Cups
2 FIFA Club World Cups
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FC Bayern Munich (2013-present) Five honours
2 Bundesliga titles
1 DFB Pokal
1 UEFA Super Cup
1 FIFA Club World Cup
In terms of winning trophies, the sheer numbers are staggering - 19 major honours in just eight years. Even Jose Mourinho’s enviable record of 22 honours in 16 years looks pretty pedestrian by comparison.
Yet despite his peerless record as a manager, a niggling doubt remains that Guardiola owes his success to his players he has had at his disposal rather than his own coaching abilities.
“The truth is that my grandfather would win the title with Barcelona and Bayern Munich because they are big clubs with great players”: Dimitri Seluk, Yaya Toure’s agent.
Powered by the unstoppable trident of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi during his time at Barcelona, as well as the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben at Bayern now, there seems to be some truth in the argument.
The only way to resolve this though is to compare how Bayern and Barcelona have fared with and without Guardiola.
FC Bayern Munich
At Bayern, his predecessor Jupp Heynckes had won the treble of the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and the UEFA Champions League in 2012/13, his final season in charge. In the 2011/12 season, Heynckes ended the season without a trophy, only managing second in the Bundesliga, as well as runners-up in the DFB Pokal and the UEFA Champions League.
Guardiola’s two years at Bayern therefore clearly have not represented much of an upgrade. Not only were the Bayern players already achieving much success prior to his arrival, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup victories on Guardiola's CV were only possible because Heynckes won the UEFA Champions League the year before.
Bayern have a long history of poaching players from domestic rivals such as Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto from Bayer Leverkusen in the past, to Mario Gotze and Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund more recently, strengthening themselves while simultaneously weakening any potential domestic competitors in the meantime. Apart from the few seasons where Jurgen Klopp managed Dortmund, the Bundesliga is effectively a one-horse race with Bayern monopolizing the domestic competitions.
Even when considering games won or goals scored and conceded, Guardiola's effect is negligible as Bayern boasted even more impressive numbers in Heynckes final season in charge where they steamrolled opponents on their way to the treble.
Guardiola has clearly buffed his managerial CV during his time at Bayern Munich but his failure to win the UEFA Champions League so far, or even get this Bayern team into the finals means he has underperformed.
While they had managed to win both the La Liga and the UEFA Champions League in 2005/06, Barcelona had lost their way under Frank Rijkaard in the seasons that followed. Prior to Guardiola’s appointment as Barcelona’s manager in the 08/09 season, the La Liga giants were struggling domestically and had finished empty handed the previous two seasons.
His four-year reign saw overflowing success as his tiki-taka style conquered all comers with Xavi and Iniesta dictating play and Messi practically unplayable and reaching his prime.
Three La Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League victories were just the icing on the cake with an assortment of cups also lifted during his reign. Barcelona would even complete a calendar sextuple in 2009 as many regarded his team as the pinnacle of the game.
After his departure in 2012 though, Barcelona have continued gathering trophies regardless of their manager. While Gerardo Martino’s reign was less than successful, Tito Vilanova managed to win the La Liga in his sole season in charge and current incumbent Luis Enrique the treble just last season. Xavi might have moved on but Iniesta and Messi still remain and have been complemented further with Neymar and Luiz Suarez joining the attack.
Only at Barcelona can Guardiola claim to have done a good job, stabilizing the ship as the tumultuous reign of Rijkaard was coming to an end. He could also arguably claim to have laid the foundations for this team’s current success. Yet Barca’s players have won without him, even beating his Bayern team 5-2 on aggregate during the UEFA Champions League semi finals. It is difficult to lay too much of the credit on Guardiola, especially when he’s had players like Messi at his disposal.
In his managerial moves, first to Bayern, and now to Manchester City, Guardiola has always clearly taken the easy way out by picking a team that had the surest route to success. Yet as Jurgen Klopp has found out six months into his reign as manager of Liverpool, the Premier League is a whole different monster altogether. In a league where relegation favourites Leicester City are sitting pretty at the top and can begin to dream of winning the title, even the limitless pockets of the Sky Blues might not be enough to guarantee success.
In a league where relegation favourites Leicester City are sitting pretty at the top and can begin to dream of winning the title, even the limitless pockets of the Sky Blues might not be enough to guarantee success.
Welcome to the Barclays Premier League Pep. We shall soon see how good you really are.
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