Guardi­ola…in the words of his father

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA — Pep Guardi­ola will “change the mind­set of English foot­ball” as Manch­ester City man­ager, his father has told BBC Sport.

The 45-year-old will re­place Manuel Pel­le­grini in June af­ter agree­ing a three-year deal at the Eti­had.

“He will look to carry on the foot­ball of his Barcelona and Bay­ern teams,” Valenti Guardi­ola said of his son.

Spa­niard Guardi­ola won 14 tro­phies in four years at Barcelona, in­clud­ing two Cham­pi­ons Leagues, be­fore tak­ing a year out of man­age­ment and then join­ing Bay­ern Mu­nich in 2013.

He an­nounced in De­cem­ber he would be leav­ing the Bun­desliga side af­ter three sea­sons in charge, dur­ing which he has al­ready won two league ti­tles, but has failed to lift the Cham­pi­ons League — twice get­ting knocked out at the semi-fi­nal stage.

“He has this at­ti­tude to foot­ball [as an art form],” said Valenti. “Not just to win, but to win in a dis­tinc­tive way that en­ter­tains the pub­lic.”

“The style of foot­ball I see in Eng­land, I doubt he has that in mind. I mean, the foot­ball is very dif­fer­ent. For that rea­son, I think he will have to change the mind­set of English foot­ball.

“I think he will be happy — he wouldn’t be leav­ing if not. Right now in Ger­many, he is held in very high es­teem.” In search of the real Guardi­ola BBC Sport’s David Orn­stein and Pa­trick Nathanson trav­elled to Santpe­dor, an hour’s drive from Barcelona, to speak to Valenti Guardi­ola at his fam­ily home.

The sleepy vil­lage, with its in­ti­mate squares and wind­ing al­leys, would be just like the plethora of other ‘ pueb­los’ that dot the Cata­lan coun­try­side, were it not for the world­wide recog­ni­tion be­stowed upon its most fa­mous son.

Guardi­ola’s par­ents, Valenti and Dolors, still live in Santpe­dor and their pride in their son’s achieve­ments is ev­i­dent in the pho­to­graphs and me­men­tos that dec­o­rate the neat fam­ily home, just around the cor­ner from the ‘Camp d’es­ports Mu­nic­i­pal Josep Guardi­ola’, where the lo­cal team play.

Valenti, a sprightly and af­fa­ble oc­to­ge­nar­ian, warmly wel­comed us into the house, as we went in search of the real Pep Guardi­ola.

The young Guardi­ola — ‘Foot­ball con­sumed him’

Josep ‘Pep’ Guardi­ola Sala joined Barcelona’s famed La Ma­sia academy at the age of 13 in 1984 and spent six years in the youth team be­fore mak­ing his pro­fes­sional de­but in 1990.

“Al­ready from an early age he would al­ways be head­ing out kick­ing a foot­ball about. There was a sure-fire way to make him happy at Christ­mas and that was to give him a foot­ball as a present.

“As a young­ster he would con­stantly be there play­ing in the square next to the house where we used to live, al­ways with a ball at his feet. Ev­ery­where he went, he went with a foot­ball.

“Given how much we knew Pep loved foot­ball, and that Barcelona had al­ways been his team since he was lit­tle, we were cer­tainly very happy at the be­gin­ning.

“But when he used to call up, it was clear that he was miss­ing his fam­ily and his mother used to cry, but only when she had hung up the phone.

“It was very painful to be apart, but at the same time we knew this had al­ways been his dream in life.

“When I used to go and watch him for the un­der-14s and we’d head back home in the car to­gether to wash his clothes over the week­end, af­ter a de­feat on that jour­ney he would sit in ab­so­lute si­lence. From an early age foot­ball was some­thing that con­sumed him.”

The player — ‘A good per­son whose per­son­al­ity changes’

Guardi­ola be­came a fix­ture in the Barcelona mid­field and had won four La Liga ti­tles, one Euro­pean Cup and one Copa del Rey, the Span­ish do­mes­tic cup, by the time he was named cap­tain by man­ager Louis van Gaal in 1997.

By the time he left Barca in 2001, Guardi­ola had played 11 sea­sons for the side and won two fur­ther league ti­tles and an­other Span­ish Cup.

He went on to play in Italy for Bres­cia and Roma and for Al-ahli in Qatar be­fore fin­ish­ing his play­ing ca­reer at Si­naloa in Mex­ico.

“He has al­ways been a leader. Even when he was play­ing with his con­tem­po­raries as a kid, he was the one or­ches­trat­ing things, tak­ing the lead.

“We didn’t know where this in­stinct came from, with him be­ing so young.

“I re­mem­ber one time a team from a nearby town came to play against Santpe­dor. One player was miss­ing to make a full 11-a-side game so they said ‘Josep, why don’t you come and make up the num­bers?’

“He played and scored I don’t know how many goals. So much so that the other team said as long as Josep is play­ing, there is no point in them turn­ing up.

“He is a very good per­son — I don’t say this be­cause I am his father; many peo­ple would tes­tify to this. The thing that hap­pens is that in a foot­balling con­text his per­son­al­ity changes. He changes from the Pep that we know and love.

“He wants to win — to win and to play well. The game trans­forms him. I re­ally don’t un­der­stand where his fierce de­sire comes from.

“It cer­tainly doesn’t come from me, as I never played foot­ball. When I watched him on TV he re­minded me of Michel Pla­tini, the way he played.

“He was born for foot­ball. He liked ev­ery­thing — cinema, theatre — but he lived and lives for foot­ball.”

The man­ager — ‘He wants the fans to en­joy it’

Guardi­ola re­turned to Barcelona in 2007, tak­ing charge of the B team for one sea­son and win­ning the Se­cond Divi­sion ti­tle.

He was ap­pointed man­ager of the se­nior team in 2008, lead­ing the club to three league ti­tles, two Euro­pean Cups and two Span­ish Cups in his four sea­sons as boss. He took a year out be­fore be­com­ing boss of Bay­ern in 2013, lead­ing the Ger­man side to two Bun­desliga ti­tles and one Ger­man Cup to date.

“It was some­thing that we never thought would have hap­pened. He came through the Barcelona youth teams and then the coach­ing sys­tem, so there were those who were fa­mil­iar with how he worked, and so they said let’s give him a go.

“I don’t think they re­gret­ted it be­cause he be­came Barca’s most suc­cess­ful man­ager. We were very happy for him, be­cause we knew how much sat­is­fac­tion it gave him, to have been able to have put Barca where he put them.

“He went to New York (be­fore start­ing the Bay­ern job) to dis­con­nect a bit from the stress that came with be­ing man­ager of Barcelona, and it was also for his chil­dren, so that they could learn English well.

“It hasn’t gone to his head, he has stayed the same. It is on the pitch that he is trans­formed. There he doesn’t have friends, he doesn’t have any­one — he just wants to win. He wants the fans to en­joy his style of foot­ball.

PEP Guardi­ola

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