Pep Guardiola is right up there with the greatest managers in history.
By the time he retires, who knows, maybe he’ll be regarded as the best.
After wrapping up his playing career in 2006 and then completing his initial, let’s say apprenticeship, with Barcelona B, the ingenious Spaniard has gone on to take charge of just three clubs – Barcelona (senior team), Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
And so as you can imagine, he’s also played boss to a vast number of footballing superstars which comes with the territory at top clubs.
I mean, he might be a groundbreaking manager, but even Guardiola couldn’t guide a squad full of 11 planks of wood to Champions League glory – nor could Sir Alex Ferguson do so with 10 and one so-called Zinedine Zidane, as he once said in jest.
In order to pursue the highest honours in the deeply competitive environment that is professional sport, you need the finest operators. And the Spaniard hasn’t won two Champions Leagues and 10 domestic titles for nothing.
So from across Guardiola’s reigns in Spain, Germany and England – who have been the very best to play under him?
Well, Transfermarkt reckon they have the conundrum sussed and, in truth, they’ve done a solid job. Aside from one key position…
Check out what they came up with below.
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Guardiola’s best combined XI of managed players
GK – Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
An easy choice. Neuer has been one of the defining goalkeepers of his generation and would get the nod over nearly any alternative past or present.
RB – Dani Alves (Barcelona)
You don’t get to be the most decorated footballer in the history of the sport by not being one of the very best yourself.
The Brazilian has won a staggering 41 trophies across his record breaking career. He was also probably at the peak of his powers under Guardiola, having formed a devastating partnership with Lionel Messi on the right flank.
Phillip Lahm can certainly count himself unlucky given he’s one of the finest German players ever.
CB – Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
The ultimate captain, Puyol has cemented his name in Barca legacy not for his ability on the ball, but for his supreme leadership and mentality off it.
CB – Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Two words – Vincent Kompany. Two more words – Gerard Pique.
Dias is a top centre-back, however the lasting impression the above two players have left on football has meant that we reckon they’ve been slightly hard done by here.
Our one and only real issue with this XI, though, it must be said.
LB – David Alaba (Bayern Munich)
The Austrian might have faced some stiff competition for the left-back spot had Guardiola spent a couple more months at Camp Nou.
As it happened, Guardiola missed Jordi Albi by a matter of months, and Alaba beats the likes of Eric Abidal and any Man City representation to the spot.
CM – Xavi (Barcelona)
The midfield is probably the most clear cut in this eleven.
Xavi was the beating heart of Barcelona’s tiki-taka style for well over a decade and he’d walk into any hypothetical team.
CM – Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Another exquisite sportsman that made the game look more like art, Xavi’s partner in crime represents another shoe’in for the team.
CM – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
A player who’s arguably not a million miles off the duo previously discussed, De Bruyne is modern football’s answer to Zidane.
The creative midfielder’s influence under Guardiola at Man City has been unmatched and he’s comfortably been one of the world’s best throughout the Spaniard’s tenure.
RW – Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Sorry Arjen Robben and Riyad Mahrez, you two are class, but this position is on lockdown for the GOAT.
The Argentine’s infamous 91 goal season even came under Guardiola in 2012.
ST – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Lewandowski played exactly 100 games for Guardiola and was his typically prolific self.
Sergio Aguero and Samuel Eto’o can count themselves unlucky, likewise David Villa if you were to play him down the centre, but Lewandowski has truly separated himself from the conversation in recent seasons and grown into a class of his own.
LW – Thierry Henry (Barcelona)
The undisputed king of the Premier League and Arsenal legend takes precedence over Franck Ribery who, when under Guardiola at Bayern, was simply unstoppable at times.
Guardiola and Henry’s partnership lasted just 74 games, but in fairness, the Frenchman excelled before moving to the MLS in 2010.
La Liga quiz: Can you name these 30 players from the early 2000’s?