Seen by many as the best manager in the world, Pep Guardiola will be gracing the BPL next season with Manchester City. Yet questions remain on how he will fare in a league without managing the clearly dominant team?
As most sought after manager in the world, Manchester City’s announcement that they had secured the services of Pep Guardiola was lauded as an incredible coup. In his 8 years as manager (excluding his 1-year sabbatical), Guardiola has amassed the following trophy haul:
FC Barcelona (2008-2012) 14 honours
3 La Liga titles
2 Copa Del Rey
3 Supercopa de Espana
2 UEFA Champions Leagues
2 UEFA Super Cups
2 FIFA Club World Cups
FC Bayern Munich (2013-present) 5 honours
2 Bundesliga titles
1 DFB Pokal
1 UEFA Super Cup
1 FIFA Club World Cup
19 major honours in just 8 years. In terms of winning trophies, the numbers are staggering. Even Jose Mourinho’s enviable record of 22 honours in 16 years looks pretty pedestrian by comparison.
Yet despite his peerless record as a manager, a niggling doubt remains about Guardiola – that his success is down to his players and the circumstances, rather than his own coaching abilities.
“The truth is that my grandfather would win the title with Barcelona and Bayern Munich because they are big clubs with great players”
Dimitri Seluk, Yaya Toure’s agent
Powered by the unstoppable trident of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi back at Barcelona, and the likes of Lewandowski, Muller and Robben at Bayern now, there seems to be some truth in the argument.
The only way to resolve this though is to compare how Bayern and Barcelona has fared with and without Guardiola.
FC Bayern Munich
At Bayern, his predecessor Jupp Heynckes had won the treble of the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and the UEFA Champions League in 2012/13, his final season in charge. In the 2011/12 season, Heynckes ended the season without a trophy, only managing 2nd in the Bundesliga, as well as runners-up in the DFB Pokal and the UEFA Champions League.
Guardiola’s 2 years at Bayern therefore clearly have not represented much of an upgrade. Not only were the Bayern players already achieving much success prior to his arrival, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup victories were only because Heynckes won the UEFA Champions League the year before.
Bayern have a long history of poaching players from domestic rivals such as Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto from Bayer Leverkurson in the past to Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund more recently, strengthen themselves while simultaneously weakening any potential domestic competitors. In Germany at least, the Bundesliga is effectively a one-horse race with Bayern monopolizing the domestic competitions.
Even when considering games won or goals scored and conceded, the Guardiola effect is negligible as Bayern boasted even more impressive numbers in Heynckes final season in charge where they steamrolled opponents to the treble.
Guardiola has clearly buffed his managerial CV during his time at Bayern Munich but his failure to win the UEFA Champions League so far, or even get this Bayern team into the finals means he has under performed.
While they had managed to win both the La Liga and the UEFA Champions League in 2005/06, Barcelona had lost their way under Frank Rijkaard in the seasons that followed. Prior to Guardiola’s appointment as Barcelona’s manager in the 08/09 season, Barcelona were struggling domestically and had finished empty handed the previous two seasons.
His 4-year reign saw overflowing success as his tiki-taka style conquered all comers with Xavi and Iniesta dictating play and Messi practically unplayable and reaching his prime. 3 La Liga titles and 2 UEFA Champions League victories were just the icing of the cake with an assortment of cups also lifted during his reign. Barcelona would even complete a calendar sextuple in 2009 as many regarded his team as the pinnacle of the game.
After his departure in 2012 though, Barcelona have continued gathering trophies regardless of their manager. While Gerardo Martino’s reign was less than successful, Tito Vilanova managed to win the La Liga in his sole season in charge and current incumbent Luis Enrique the treble just last season. Xavi might have moved on but Iniesta and Messi still remain and have been complemented further with Neymar and Suarez joining the attack.
Only at Barcelona can Guardiola claim to have done a good job, stabilizing the ship as the tumultuous reign of Rijkaard was coming to an end. He could also arguably claim to have laid the foundations for this team’s current success.
Yet Barca’s players have won without him, even beating his Bayern team 5-2 on aggregate during the UEFA Champions League semi finals. It is difficult to lay too much of the credit on Guardiola, especially when he’s had players like Messi at his disposal.
English Premier League is a different beat altogether
In his managerial moves, first to Bayern, and now to Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has always clearly taken the easy way out by picking a team that had the surest route to success. Yet as Jurgen Klopp has found out 3 months into his reign as manager of Liverpool, the Premier League is a whole different monster altogether.
In a league where relegation favourites Leicester City are sitting pretty at the top and can begin to dream of winning the title, even the limitless pockets of the Sky Blues might not be enough to guarantee success.
Welcome to the Barclays Premier League Pep Guardiola. We shall soon see how good you really are.