COM­MU­NI­CA­TION IS KEY

FourFourTwo - - PEP GUARDIOLA -

Put sim­ply, Guardi­ola loves talk­ing about foot­ball. It’s a process that be­gins the first time he meets his play­ers, con­tin­ues through­out ev­ery train­ing ses­sion (“He in­ter­jects all the time to cor­rect and ex­plain ex­actly what he wants from us,” re­called Dani Alves of Pep’s early days at Barcelona) and even ex­tends to in­di­vid­ual chats ev­ery day. Praise is ef­fu­sive when mer­ited.

Guardi­ola typ­i­cally spends two hours per day dis­cussing one-on-one the po­si­tional minu­tiae of what he de­mands from his play­ers. En­tirely self-taught as a player, Jerome Boateng (below) has

“We won 3-1 and I touched the ball more in 15 min­utes than in an en­tire half,” he wrote in his out-of-print 2001 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy La Meva Gent, El Meu Fut­bol (‘My Peo­ple, My Foot­ball’, pic­tured right). “Just by mov­ing two paces I could rad­i­cally change the game’s rhythm. Tort knows more about foot­ball than those who in­vented it.”

If a 13-year-old can do it… been the big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary at Bay­ern Mu­nich, adding brains to his prodi­gious cen­tre-back brawn, while Philipp Lahm still spends 15 min­utes af­ter ev­ery train­ing ses­sion talk­ing in minute de­tail about mid­field play, his hands a blur of ex­plana­tory sig­nals. For more in­stinc­tive play­ers such as Franck Ribery, less is more.

“Pep doesn’t just give you or­ders,” said Ger­ard Pique. “He also ex­plains why.”

He knows his play­ers in­ti­mately. He cried with young­ster Pierre-emile Ho­jb­jerg when the mid­fielder lost his father to stom­ach can­cer in April 2014. He wants a max­i­mum of 20 play­ers in a first-team squad be­cause he hates telling any­one that they have failed to make the 18-man match­day squad.

He varies what he says, too, not through any kind of psy­cho­log­i­cal plan but merely to ex­press ex­actly what he is feel­ing in­side. “Guys, you’re all greats,” he told his Barcelona play­ers be­fore 2010’s ti­tle-de­cider against Vil­lar­real, which came two days af­ter Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nal de­feat to Jose Mour­inho’s In­ter Mi­lan. “I just want to tell you one thing. If we go out there and lose, and the league es­capes us, don’t worry.” They won. 4-0.

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