FC Barcelona’s Corner: Why The Catalans Need Pep Guardiola to Stay

Over the past week Lionel Messi’s 5-star performance against Bayer Leverkusen dominated the news, prompting critics, fans and pundits alike to debate whether La Pulga is the greatest player of all time. The mere fact that one even considers the diminutive Argentine to belong to the pantheon of all-time greats speaks volumes of his standing in the game – and he’s just 24 years old. But while Lionel Messi has at least 6 or 7 more years at the peak to confirm and cement his legacy as the world’s best, Culés worldwide are more interested in the intermediate future of his boss alias Pep Guardiola. Though it looks like forgone conclusion that Real Madrid will win La Liga, with FC Barcelona trailing Los Blancos by 10 points, every Culé wants the Santpedor-born manager to extend his reign at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona supporters have always been known to be quite pessimistic, they always expect the worst. However, during Pep Guardiola’s tenure, the average Culé has become a little less pessimistic and infinitely more joyful. While FC Barcelona have always been revered for their playing style, Pep Guardiola perfected the formula and the current Blaugrana team is now mentioned alongside the great teams of the past, Di Stefano’s Real Madrid, Johan Cryuff’s Ajax Amsterdam, Pele’s Brazil or Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan side. This FC Barcelona team is one of the greatest sides of all time.

Some critics are quick to dismiss Pep Guardiola’s achievements, attributing them to fortunate circumstances. After all, they say, he can count on the services of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and once-in-a-lifetime footballer, Lionel Messi. Although there might be some merit to those claims, they are surely not justified in its entirety. Sure, having a golden generation of footballers helps a lot but that by no means, should lessen the credit to the manager. It’s not like Frank Rijkaard didn’t have access to some of the world’s finest or couldn’t count on La Masia. He did, didn’t he?

Raising A Revolution At Camp Nou - But Is He Here Forever?


Initially, culés were understandably a bit hesitant  when it was first announced that Pep Guardiola would replace Frank Rijkaard as the manager of FC Barcelona. How couldn’t they? Pep’s first order of business was to get rid of Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel Eto’o – the three key players that brought back joy to the shores of Catalunya. While Pep succeeded in removing the two Brazilian-born players, he was stuck with Samuel Eto’o, who turned out to be an integral component in accomplishing the treble in 2008/2009.

It is safe to say that Pep hasn’t made too many mistakes during his tenure, albeit a few costly ones. In retrospect, his assessment of Ronaldinho and Deco was spot on. Nevertheless, seeing Ronaldinho leave FC Barcelona was not the easiest thing to do for the fans. Judging by pure talent alone, he’s still better than most players who made the Ballon d’Or top 10 lists in seasons gone by. It is hard to find any player of the current era who can match or surpass Ronaldinho’s talent, with the exception of Lionel Messi.

At any rate, Pep was right. Still, that didn’t prevent him from making horrible mistakes too. The signings of Martin Caceres, Alexandr Hleb, Dymtro Chygryinski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic represent an astronomical sum of cash that could have been spent in a more wisely manner. And if that wasn’t horrific enough, allowing the African duo of Samuel Eto’o and Yaya Toure to leave will always be inexcusable, not to mention utterly mystifying. Samuel Eto’o is s a certified FC Barcelona legend and a success wherever he has played. Yaya Toure on the other hand is probably the best midfielder in the English Premier League after his teammate, and fellow La Liga export, David Silva. Selling Yaya Toure and buying Javier Mascherano, only for him to be deployed as a makeshift center back was not certainly the sign of a genius. Given the wall Yaya Toure is, he could have always been placed in the defensive line and his physical credentials too are superior to those of Mascherano.

But people, especially managers, make mistakes. At the end of the day the positives outweigh the negatives. And if we’re being honest, the only area where Pep probably needs to improve is signing players. But judging by the 2011/2012 transfer window he even nailed that one.

Just as some people suspect that Lionel Messi hasn’t peaked yet, one should also take into consideration that Pep Guardiola is still a relative novice when it comes to managing. He can only get better.

Life after Pep? Let’s not go there…

Written by guest author Adi-Oula Sebastian, Co-founder and Co-owner of http://www.soccer-inc.com/ (coming soon) and Former Editor-in-Chief of Barca Blaugranes

You can follow him @JubeiKibagame

  • http://- anoop menon

    Ronaldinho and Messi cannot be compared. Ronaldinho, to being with, is on a different plane when it comes to pure technical skill, vision and game reading abilities. Barcelona have not been able to find a replacement for him on the left-flank till now; the best they can do is field their best technically gifted player at the moment i.e. Andres Iniesta time to time at that position; but this too affects Barcelona’s game because playing Iniesta on the left instead of his preferred or rather stronger central role where he can influence both flanks due to his nimbleness with both feet. Messi was on a different plane under Rijkaard where he was allowed to showcase and develop individually and be a play maker than a false 9 (which Pep has moulded him to be). Goals may flow but I think Rijkaard had a greater impact and Messi’s game was a pure joy to watch and never it could be said then that he was flourishing because of Ronaldinho and Deco. He held his own, unlike today where w/o Xavi and Iniesta he seems lost. Also he was influential for Argentina through out the Rijkaard era – winning the Olympic Gold along the way (a feat many forget). Messi is the world’s best by just Goals alone but as far as his individual talent goes, it has taken a pounding under Pep; Iniesta is Barcelona’s best replacement for Ronaldinho at the moment but the team lacks the flamboyance, passion and joy of the Rijkaard era. The current team is a passing carousel, a machine that does not make mistakes but it sure has come at a price. Pep, as a coach is heavily over rated :)

    • shaz

      You seem to overlook the fact that a false 9 has different aspects to his game than a playmaker. Sure i too agree in case of technical skill , Ronaldinho is the best. I fell in love with the club due to this player. But as can be seen by the results being churned out day after day, its pep’s style which has transformed this team to a better team all over. The first and foremost which i rate among his talents is he wants the players to be humble. The reason why Ibra was asked to not to bring his ferrari to nou camp during training. He wants everyone in the team to gel together and not have any ego clashes. This is Pep’s greatest strength as a manager and i totally agree with this aspect. look at how different the LaMasia graduates behave than players bought in from outside.

  • http://- anoop menon

    I agree with you but I liked the Barcelona which made mistakes and played with passion :) This , as I had mentioned, is a ruthless machine which I don’t dislike any less but given an option I would any day trade in for the flamboyance and passion with which Ronaldinho, Etoo and Deco approached the game at their peak. Humbleness is over rated :) , when Messi looses a game or misses a move the reaction is pale. The lack of enthusiasm and trading off pure technical skill for a team game might have been taken a bit too far. Barcelona still play the most brilliant football on the planet but with far less joy. I might be sounding a bit impractical but like someone said, Madridstas hate Messi, Cules hate Ronaldo but everybody liked Ronaldinho and lately Iniesta. Something to do with the passion that was shown on the pitch.