Zlatan, Toure, Gotze: 10 players who flopped under Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola will go down as one of the most influential figures in football history, and perhaps the game’s greatest manager ever for some.

A master tactician who has revolutionised teams wherever he has been, Guardiola’s brilliance cannot be understated. He understands the game like very few others, and is crucially able to translate that understanding into results on the pitch.

Beginning his managerial career with Barcelona B in 2007, he took them to the Tercera Division title in his first and only season in charge, before being given the first team job a year later.

What followed was four years of revolutionary football, establishing Barcelona as the world’s most dominant club outfit with a patented style of passing play that was good enough to decimate any opponent, while developing some of the greatest players to play the game.

Since then, he’s added to his trophy collection and furthered his legacy with Bayern Munich and currently Manchester City, the latter of whom he has established as a consistently top level club, capable of hanging their hat with Europe’s top sides.

But for all the romance around Guardiola’s incredible career and his legacy within the beautiful game, nothing is ever perfect. Not everyone has seen him as their prophet, and not everyone Guardiola has coached has benefitted from his teachings. Quite the opposite, in some instances.

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Much like in professional wrestling where there the Bret Hart fans and the Shawn Michaels fans, or the John Cena fans and the CM Punk fans, football shares similarities, with fans and players usually being Guardiola fans or Jose Mourinho fans instead.

In this list, GIVEMESPORT recalls ten players who flopped under Guardiola.

10. Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich)

Signing in his final season in Germany, Costa’s one and only campaign under Guardiola wasn’t bad, but his four goals and 14 Bundesliga assists didn’t convince the manager enough, it seems.

Costa arrived with much more hype than that and was very quickly relegated to a rotation role in the seasons following his first. Perhaps they needed more time together to get him firing properly.

9. Danilo (Manchester City)

Death, taxes, and Guardiola spending money on full backs every summer at Manchester City.

Danilo was yet another full back with a versatile profile that he thought would complete his team back in 2017. He wasn’t. He looked out of his depth and was gone two years later.

Danilo flopped at City
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 23: Danilo of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his sides fourth goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and AFC Bournemouth at Etihad Stadium on December 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona)

It’s difficult to call Ibrahimovic a flop or a failure, because he was prolific while at Barcelona under Guardiola, but the two did not get on. At all.

Guardiola would shift Ibrahimovic outside to a wide role in order to accommodate Lionel Messi, which of course he didn’t accept. The two have essentially been feuding ever since, following Ibrahimovic’s 2010 departure from La Blaugrana.

7. Nolito (Manchester City)

Signed in Guardiola’s first season in charge at the Etihad, Nolito wasn’t expected to develop into a world beater, but it was assumed that he would settle in a lot more seamlessly than he did.

The Spaniard couldn’t get a handle of Premier League football and, after also being rather homesick, returned to La Liga with Sevilla after just one disappointing season in Manchester. Experiment failed, Pep.

Nolito spent just one year in England
BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 19: Nolito of Manchester City in action during the UEFA Champions League group C match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City FC at Camp Nou on October 19, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

6. Ferran Torres (Manchester City)

No, Torres is not just a clone of Nolito, despite how likely that might look. Their career path at City was rather similar, though, albeit Torres arrived with higher expectations against him.

He signed in 2020 for a fee of around £20.8 million, but struggled to nail down a spot in the side despite a bright start. To City’s surprise, he left for Barcelona for €55m the following season.

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5. Martin Caceres (Barcelona)

Guardiola snapped up Caceres from Villarreal in his first summer in charge of Barcelona, with the club immediately inserting a €50m buyout clause in his contract, viewing him as one for the future.

He failed to shore up the defence, though, and immediately looked below the require level, dropping right down the pecking order before eventually leaving in 2011. Not a great start in the transfer market.

Caceres was a disaster signing
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – AUGUST 06: Jose Martin Caceres #2 of FC Barcelona plays the ball against the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands on August 6, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Barcelona won 6-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

4. Yaya Toure (Barcelona)

Toure signed the season before Guardiola took charge of the first team and was considered one of the most talented midfielder around, but Guardiola just didn’t take a liking to him.

His form suffered as a result, being forced to make an impact from a limited role with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets all ahead of him in the pecking order. He was sold in 2010, and has since spoken about his issues with Guardiola, who he did not see eye to eye with.

3. Alexander Hleb (Barcelona)

Rising to prominence at Arsenal in the mid-2000s, Hleb looked every part a world class attacking midfielder, sitting just behind the striker.

Guardiola brought him to Barcelona in his first summer in charge, but could not get the Belarusian firing at all. Hleb flopped hard, failing to score in his first season and never getting a look-in after that, before leaving for a journeyman career in 2012.

MADRID, SPAIN – MARCH 01: Aleksander Hleb of Barcelona smiles from the subs bench before the La Liga match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon stadium on March 1, 2009 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

2. Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich)

Bayern Munich and Guardiola made Gotze the most expensive German player ever in 2013, and while his first season was a success, he struggled to stay in the side as a key player.

Despite his efforts, Gotze’s form fizzled out, and he would quickly become forgotten about in the seasons that followed, particularly after his World Cup-winning goal in 2014. He was sold back to Borussia Dortmund in 2016, having failed to get close to fulfilling the potential he had.

1. Claudio Bravo (Manchester City)

A player that could well have defined Guardiola’s tenure at Manchester City had he been a failure, Bravo’s time in Manchester was disastrous.

He went from number one at Barcelona to being deemed a laughing stock in England. Bravo was unable to instil his passing game from the get go, which was the reason Guardiola had exiled Joe Hart in favour of him in the first place. By the end of the 2016/17, his stock was in the floor, Guardiola needed another new number one and Bravo was phased out. Fair play to him for realising this and fixing it before it became a real issue.

Bravo was immediately out of his depth at City
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JANUARY 06: Claudio Bravo of Manchester City looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 6, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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