I wouldn’t be here with­out Cruyff, re­veals Guardi­ola

City man­ager talks about his former coach and men­tor, a man who taught him to al­ways ‘want more and more’

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports - THE GUARDIAN /“

He was unique, to­tally unique,” Pep Guardi­ola says of Jo­han Cruyff on a quiet Thurs­day af­ter­noon in Lon­don. “With­out him I wouldn’t be here. I know for sure this is why I am, right now, the man­ager of Manch­ester City and be­fore that Bay­ern Mu­nich and Barcelona.”

On a sofa tucked away in a Blooms­bury ho­tel, the in­ten­sity of Guardi­ola’s gaze sharp­ens the im­pact of these words about his former coach and men­tor. “Be­fore he came we didn’t have a cathe­dral of foot­ball, this beau­ti­ful church, at Barcelona. We needed some­thing new. And now it is some­thing that has lasted. It was built by one man, by Jo­han Cruyff, stone by stone. That’s why he was spe­cial.

“I would not be able to do what he did. You hear all these peo­ple say­ing: ‘Oh Pep, what a good man­ager he is.’ For­get about it. Cruyff was the best, by far. Cre­at­ing some­thing new is the dif­fi­cult part. To make it and build it and get ev­ery­one to follow? Amaz­ing. That’s why, when I was Barcelona man­ager, I went to see Jo­han many times. I made es­pe­cially sure I went a lot in my first year when we won ev­ery­thing, ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing.”

At the end of that 2008-09 sea­son, when Guardi­ola was 37 and af­ter he had spent the pre­vi­ous year, his first as a coach, look­ing af­ter their B team, Barcelona com­pleted the tre­ble of the Copa del Rey, La Liga and the Cham­pi­ons League – beat­ing Manch­ester United 2-0 in the fi­nal. Guardi­ola’s rep­u­ta­tion was sealed dur­ing that ex­tra­or­di­nary man­age­rial de­but but he stresses: “I al­ways went that sea­son to see Jo­han to try to make him feel how grate­ful I was to him. Of course I wanted to talk to him about new ideas, but the main feel­ing I al­ways had when I said good­bye was that he might feel how pleased I am and see how deep my grat­i­tude goes.”

That same grat­i­tude means Guardi­ola is at­tend­ing the launch of Cruyff’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, which the Dutch­man fin­ished work­ing on shortly be­fore his death from cancer, at the age of 68, just over six months ago. It’s also the rea­son why Guardi­ola is will­ing to en­gage in a rare in­ter­view, dur­ing an af­ter­noon when he and I will share a stage with Jordi Cruyff, Jo­han’s son and his Barcelona team-mate in the 1990s.

While his bond with Cruyff Sr grew into one of the strong­est in Euro­pean foot­ball, Guardi­ola is still amused by the fact that when he first played for Cruyff the Dutch mas­ter gave him a se­vere rol­lick­ing at half-time. “You were slower than my granny,” Cruyff told the teenage Guardi­ola.

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