COMMUNICATION IS KEY
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.