Ronaldinho, Kroos, Zlatan: Pep Guardiola's sold players XI is seriously stacked

The incredible XI of players sold by Pep Guardiola could beat pretty much any top team

Pep Guardiola is quite possibly already the greatest manager of all time.

For many, that is blasphemy. But the reality is he is without doubt in the conversation, and the fact that his career is still far from over makes it a very strong possibility.

Nobody can deny his genius. After an illustrious career as a player, Guardiola burst onto the scene with Barcelona in 2008 and won the treble in his first year of senior management, announcing himself in the greatest fashion possible.

Since then, Guardiola has continued to go from strength to strength. Revolutionising Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City with a Johan Cruyff-esque, total football style of play, he’s won just about everything there is to win, and never finished lower than third in his managerial career.

In short, the man is every bit a footballing genius. For a player, there is no greater person to learn the arts of pure, possession-based football from than Guardiola. Watching him transform players and teams is an absolute honour, so being a part of his ever-dominant squads is an even higher one.

But, while he might be a genius, Guardiola isn’t a miracle worker. Managers will always have their favourites, and while many would assume that Pep can wave his magic, tiki-taka wand and make every player a world beater, it’s just not realistic. Some players just don’t tickle his fancy; we’ve seen it in all of his spells.

Man Utd close in on double player swoop (Football Terrace)

And with that reality, Guardiola has left quite the trail of players he has sold during his time in Spain, Germany and England. With that in mind, we at GIVEMESPORT have thrown together an XI of players sold by Guardiola, and it’s probably good enough to beat most of the top club teams in football right now.

Let’s take a look.

GK – Joe Hart (Manchester City)

Guardiola made it clear that he didn’t think Hart was able to cope with his demands for a ball-playing, sweeper keeper from the minute he walked through the doors at Manchester City in 2016.

Despite winning the Premier League Golden Glove award four times in five seasons before his arrival, he was replaced immediately. Hart was loaned away several times before leaving for good in 2018, rediscovering some of his previously magical abilities since moving to Celtic in 2021.

Joe Hart went on loan to Serie A outfit Torino
BERGAMO, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Goalkeeper of FC Torino Joe Hart looks during the Serie a match between Atalanta BC and FC Torino at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on September 11, 2016 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

RB – Gianluca Zambrotta (Barcelona)

Zambrotta made 58 appearances in La Liga during two relatively successful seasons with Barcelona from 2006 to 2008. But upon Guardiola’s arrival to the first team, the Italian full back was shown the door immediately.

He would move to Milan and play an important role as a versatile rotation arm, particularly as they won the Scudetto in 2010/11. Not bad for a player who was supposedly past the peak of his powers.

CB – Dante (Bayern Munich)

The towering Brazilian defender earned a move to Bayern Munich in 2012 following an impressive spell with Borussia Monchengladbach, but after becoming a key player and playing a big part in the nine honours he won with the club, Dante was sold in 2015.

His loss proved to be no detriment to Guardiola, who won three Bundesliga titles in a row during his time in Bavaria, but Dante would still make a solid account for himself at OGC Nice in Ligue 1, moving to France in 2016 after a difficult one year spell with Wolfsburg.

Dante and Guardiola in conversation on the training ground
AGADIR, MOROCCO – DECEMBER 15: Head coach Josep Guardiola speaks to Dante during a Bayern Muenchen training session for the FIFA Club World Cup outside at Agadir Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Agadir, Morocco. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

CB – Rafael Marquez (Barcelona)

Regarded as Mexico’s greatest ever defender, Marquez made the move to La Blaugrana in 2003 after rising to prominence with Monaco.

The elegant defender would prove a vital asset to Barcelona throughout the mid-2000s, leaving the club in 2010 as two-time Champions League winner with the club, and a four-time La Liga winner. You can’t really blame Guardiola for wanting to freshen up his defence, although keeping Marquez around until retirement would have also been a solid idea.

LB – Angelino (Manchester City)

Angelino has grown into a more than dependable attacking full back within European football, but that hasn’t stopped Guardiola from selling him twice while at City.

The Brazilian broke into the first team after a series of successful loans, but couldn’t make it stick and left for PSV in 2018. Following his exceptional performances, he was back in Manchester a year later, but again couldn’t convince Guardiola and was sold for a second time by him in 2021, following an initial loan period at RB Leipzig.

Angelino celebrates for RB Leipzig
LEIPZIG, GERMANY – OCTOBER 03: Angelino of RB Leipzig celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and FC Schalke 04 at Red Bull Arena on October 03, 2020 in Leipzig, Germany. 8,500 fans have been allowed in to the stadium as COVID-19 precautions ease in Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

RM – Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)

We’ve cheated a bit here, but Schweinsteiger started his career as a winger, so it’s justified.

The iconic German had more than served his time for Bayern Munich by the time of his 2015 departure. And while he still could absolutely have been of use to Guardiola in limited capacity, he opted to sell him to Manchester United, who were convinced a then 30-year-old Schweinsteiger could be the reset their midfield needed. He wasn’t. A terrific player, but sold at the right time.

CM – Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)

A year before United pinched Schweinsteiger, they had almost snatched away Kroos, which would’ve been an exceptional coup. It was Real Madrid who ended up securing his services that summer, though, with Guardiola opting to move on without him.

Sure, Bayern have been fine since his departure and dominated domestically. But considering the German has become one of the best midfielders of the last decade and a five-time Champions League winner with Real, it’s a departure that has stung Bayern fans long beyond the end of Guardiola’s time in Munich.

Kroos and Guardiola in conversation on the touchline for Bayern Munich
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 01: Pep Guardiola head coach of Bayern Muenchen has words with Toni Kroos of Bayern Muenchen during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Manchester United and FC Bayern Muenchen at Old Trafford on April 1, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

CM – Yaya Toure (Barcelona & Manchester City)

Guardiola did also get rid of Toure at City in 2018 after another breakdown in connections, but the first time it happened was in 2010, when Barcelona sold him to the Cityzens with Pep not fancying him.

It was a massive oversight from Guardiola, despite the success of his esteemed Barcelona midfield. Toure was one of the best in the world and immediately proved it in the Premier League. Guardiola didn’t see eye to eye with him, however, and it’s ended sourly twice as a result. A great shame.

LM – Leroy Sane (Manchester City)

While City haven’t exactly struggled since losing Sane to Bayern in 2020, fans were very sad to see the talented German winger leave, as was Guardiola.

Speculation had rumbled on for a while regarding Bayern’s interest in Sane. When he ruptured his ACL ahead of the 2019/20 season, it merely intensified, and by the time he was back fit, Guardiola seemed resigned to losing him to his former employers. A player he did seem keen to keep, and understandably so.

Guardiola talks to Sane as the two leave the pitch
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MARCH 04: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City and Leroy Sane speak following the Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

CF – Ronaldinho (Barcelona)

With how endlessly creative and unapologetically free-flowing Ronaldinho’s approach to football was, it’s no surprise knowing that Guardiola didn’t fancy him, looking back. His powers had waned resulting in Joan Laporta growing tired of him, and his new manager agreed it was time to move him on.

Ronaldinho joined AC Milan in 2008 and, while not at his scintillating best, did recover his iconic, world class form. It’s a real shame Guardiola didn’t try for a year with the legendary Brazilian, in an attempt to mould him to work within his ideals.

ST – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona)

Ibrahimovic is a Jose Mourinho guy, just like CM Punk was a Paul Heyman guy. Despite sanctioning the loss of Samuel Eto’o and some £59m to bring him to Barcelona in 2009, Guardiola could not work wth Ibrahimovic and the two clashed immediately.

Ultimately, it was a clash of two major egos, and two men who viewed football very differently. Zlatan is the star of the show, while Guardiola was trying to build a team that was full of stars. Ibrahimovic took an issue with Guardiola’s persistence to shoehorn him in as a winger, and was gone by 2010. He’s done alright, since.

Guardiola snubs Ibrahimovic after substituting him for Barcelona
BARCELONA, SPAIN – APRIL 28: Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola subs Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg match between Barcelona and Inter Milan at Camp Nou on April 28, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

QUIZ – Which player is missing from these iconic football XIs?

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Man United line-up

Manchester United vs Chelsea, 2008 UCL Final

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