Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and the sport that modified the whole lot
A choice in time sends historical past down two very completely different tracks.
In 1998, a Hollywood movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow catapulted the time period ‘Sliding Doorways’ into widespread lexicon.
Ten years later, soccer had its personal Sliding Doorways second.
In the summertime of 2008, Barcelona – managed by Frank Rijkaard – have been a membership stalled and set to fall.
A second trophyless season in succession had ended with Barca third in La Liga and struggling ignominy on the Bernabeu.
With Actual Madrid confirmed as champions within the days earlier than, Barcelona needed to give their arch-rivals a guard of honour on to the pitch earlier than their league assembly.
The embarrassment did not cease there. A 4-1 thrashing adopted, with the Madrid followers chanting “Laporta please keep!” to Barca’s under-pressure president Joan Laporta.
Off the pitch, dressing-room ringleader Ronaldinho was spending extra time within the metropolis’s nightclubs than banging in targets.
Group self-discipline appeared to have drained away, with tales of the Brazilian being left to get his head down and sleep off the evening’s excesses slightly than knuckle down in coaching.
Questions over Ronaldinho’s weight acquire, and penchant for an evening out, peppered the back and front pages of Barcelona’s newspapers whereas in press conferences, each query directed at Rijkaard included the phrase “resign”.
With the Madrid followers’ catcalls nonetheless ringing in his ears, Laporta offered his personal reply.
Lower than 24 hours after the embarrassment in Madrid, Rijkaard was sacked.
Who would exchange him?
High of the billing, and high of the listing for any soccer pragmatist, was Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho had a optimistic historic relationship with the membership as assistant to earlier managers Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal.
He additionally had a CV surpassing anybody else in Europe on the time, following Uefa Cup and Champions League triumphs with Porto, and successive and unprecedented Premier League titles with Chelsea.
However, slightly than go for the A-list soccer superstar, Barcelona opted for somebody from the B-list. Actually.
They selected their very own B workforce supervisor, who was completely unproven on the high degree, and had spent the earlier marketing campaign – his first as a boss – in Spain’s fourth tier and a Catalan regional division.
Guardiola over Mourinho.
To grasp why, and to resolve that call that modified soccer, you need to dig deep into Barcelona DNA’s the place poetry, not pragmatism, is the first motivator and one man’s strategies, opinions and intestine intuition trump the whole lot.
As the brand new BBC Sport documentary Pep Guardiola: Chasing Perfection explores, to know Pep, you need to perceive Johan Cruyff.
Cruyff is synonymous with Barcelona, profitable La Liga in 1974 and the Copa del Rey in 1978 as a participant, earlier than lifting 4 consecutive Spanish top-flight titles, and the European Cup, because the membership’s supervisor between 1988 and 1996.
And Cruyff wielded an unimaginable affect over Guardiola’s profession.
It was Cruyff who plucked a 19-year-old Guardiola from the Barcelona reserves in 1990 and catapulted him into an all-conquering first workforce full of world stars resembling Michael Laudrup to Ronald Koeman. Cruyff noticed within the teenage Guardiola a high quality that endures.
Spanish journalist Lu Martin is aware of Guardiola higher than most, having ghost-written his little-known 2001 e book La Meva Gent, El Meu Futbol (My Folks, My Soccer in Catalan).
“In Catalonia, we are saying ‘seny’ and ‘rauxa’. [Legendary Barcelona captain Carles] Puyol has ‘rauxa’ – impulse, drive,” Martin says.
“The ‘seny’ – the brains – at FC Barcelona was Pep.
“Pep introduced sense to the workforce – as a result of Pep might perceive the whole lot Johan wished from him.
“Johan had two sons. Jordi, his son by blood, and his sports activities son…Pep.”
Jordi Cruyff echoes Martin’s evaluation of his father and Guardiola’s shut relationship.
Jordi remembers his father having supreme confidence in Guardiola as a budding supervisor after his protege wound down his taking part in profession with underwhelming spells at Brescia, Roma, Al-Ahli and Mexican membership Dorados.
“I do know in that point Pep and my father had loads of contact,” Jordi Cruyff says of the months after Guardiola’s retirement in 2006.
“I believe my father had this sort of instinct that he might really feel when any individual goes to be coach.”
A frequent criticism of Guardiola is that every one three of his top-level managerial jobs – Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester Metropolis – have been golf equipment with big-name gamers and massive pockets.
The inference is that the Spaniard could not work his magic in a smaller, extra humble, setting.
It did not get a lot smaller than Barcelona B.
“Sure, I used to be a participant, however I will begin from zero as a coach,” stated Guardiola, then 37, in his first press convention in control of Barcelona B.
It was a shock he had taken the job, given a task as head of the academy – seen as extra prestigious – was additionally on the desk.
Nevertheless, Barcelona B, like Guardiola, have been ranging from scratch. Within the earlier season, they’d been relegated after failing to win their last 10 matches.
Guardiola’s first match in cost was a pre-season pleasant performed on a tiny, synthetic pitch in opposition to Banyoles. Small pitches and, when matches have been performed on grass, bobbly surfaces have been a theme in a tough begin to managerial life.
Barcelona B received one in every of their first three matches.
After a 2-0 defeat by lowly Manresa, who have been ultimately relegated, Guardiola endured his first take a look at of religion. Might his taking part in fashion – prioritising possession over place on the pitch – thrive within the testing situations of the fourth tier?
By the point he arrived at coaching on the Wednesday after that defeat, he had made his thoughts up.
“I had thought we have now to alter as a result of the pitches are so small,” he says.
“I doubted for 2 days. However, in that second, I made a decision – if we might win and play fairly good soccer on a small pitch, I might do it at the next degree with higher gamers and higher pitches.
“I arrived at coaching and stated: ‘That is what I imagine.’ The options, the methods we checked out altering, they didn’t persuade me. That’s the reason I couldn’t change.
“It was an vital second as a result of I used to be new, I used to be not skilled. Aged 37, by no means educated large gamers. I needed to show myself.”
One man he did not have to show himself to was Domenec Torrent.
Torrent had been managing fellow fourth-tier outfit Girona. When Guardiola, a person he had revered as a participant got here knocking, Torrent jumped on the probability to hitch him.
Torrent spent 11 years at Guardiola’s facet as his assistant earlier than leaving Manchester Metropolis for a head coach position with New York Metropolis FC in 2018.
“I all the time say Pep has nice powers of seduction,” he says.
“He is somebody who can persuade gamers along with his on a regular basis work with them. He is a sponge.
“He learns in a short time about the whole lot and everybody.
“He turned Barcelona B into a really compact facet who performed superb soccer. And he put throughout to the gamers his concepts, which have been completely completely different from something they’d heard up till then.
“It is true that we constructed an excellent squad.”
Sergio Busquets, Pedro and Thiago Alcantara have been rookie faces in that squad and Guardiola was the uncompromising, relentless, ruthless driving pressure on the centre of it.
Professionalism was to the fore. Opposition sides have been scouted and video-analysed, a degree of element exceptional in that division on the time.
An 11pm curfew was launched – as have been fines.
“Pep had very clear boundaries, he didn’t let anyone do something that he thought was misplaced,” Pep’s then-captain Marc Valiente has stated. “He had a really clear code. You needed to adhere to that when it comes to the principles, when it comes to fines, and I believe that was truthful.”
Barcelona’s then-sporting director Txiki Begiristain – now in the identical job at Manchester Metropolis – additionally remembers Guardiola’s pursuit of perfection.
“It was unbelievable,” Begiristain says. “In England, the extent can be like League Two.
“Pep was working in League Two like he was in [charge of] the [Barcelona] first workforce: Taking care of the gamers, meals, cooks, travelling, recording the video games.
“He was actually wonderful. He was considering ‘in the future I am gonna be a first-team coach, I wanna work like this’.
“And so, he was already doing it within the fourth tier. It was loopy.”
After their inauspicious begin, Guardiola’s Barcelona B’s kind dramatically improved en path to profitable promotion.
Guardiola’s work-rate received hearts within the boardroom, most notably with probably the most influential Barcelona face of all.
“I keep in mind that Johan Cruyff visited loads along with his spouse to see the Barca B video games,” Torrent says.
“And, unusually, I noticed that as an alternative of watching the sport, he was watching Pep, how he managed, how he behaved, how he moved: his physique language.
“And I bear in mind mentioning to Pep: ‘That is the second time Johan’s been to see you and he was simply watching you.’ All that made sense when Pep took over the primary workforce.
“I remembered these afternoons when Johan got here to see him, not the soccer.”
Promotion price Guardiola a good bit of cash.
At the start of the marketing campaign, he had promised to purchase the workforce lunch in the event that they received three video games in a row. It occurred on 5 events.
The workforce’s most vital efficiency, although, was to return in a pleasant in opposition to Rijkaard’s more and more disjointed and disengaged first workforce, watched by a handful of spectators.
“I do not suppose I run and chased the ball as a lot ever,” former Barcelona ahead Eidur Gudjohnsen says.
Mixed with Cruyff’s weekly scouting experiences, the pleasant was key to persuading the Barcelona board that Pep was the person for the highest job.
“That they had a sure approach of taking part in,” Gudjohnsen continues.
“It was nearly as if we could not get close to them. I am fairly certain a few of a few of the first-team gamers did not take it as severely as we should always have.
“However I nonetheless keep in mind that I believed: ‘Wow, how are they taking part in? Why is there all the time a spare man?’
“It was very tough to strain them.”
For the primary workforce, the match was a humiliation. Ronaldinho was withdrawn after simply 10 minutes. Deco additionally reportedly struggled within the face of the relentless reserves.
Pep’s strain was to show an excessive amount of for the Barcelona board as nicely.
A mix of the B workforce’s promotion, the pleasant farce and Rijkaard’s reticence to self-discipline his wayward squad pressured a change on the high.
The selection was clear. Europe’s high canine, the all-conquering disciplinarian Jose Mourinho? Or the poetic selection, the possession-obsessed Pep Guardiola?
Xavier Sala-i-Martin was on the centre of these conversations as Barcelona treasurer and a board member between 2004 and 2010.
“Everyone is aware of we have now this drawback,” he recounts in Pep Guardiola: Chasing Perfection.
“Ronaldinho performs bongos till two within the morning each evening. How do you cease it? We’d like a sergeant, a normal.
“Who’s the best normal on this planet? Jose Mourinho proper?
“Given the issues we had, the answer appear apparent. Sadly, Mourinho would not match with Barcelona’s DNA.
“Barcelona DNA has many facets. Considered one of them is the way in which we play.
“We inherited these from Johan Cruyff. We win once we play Dutch-style soccer. The perfect pupil of Cruyff is Pep.
“However Mourinho has received the Champions League. So there was a giant debate.
“However Joan Laporta stated: ‘We can not go Mourinho’s course….he would not play our fashion. He is a defensive supervisor with counter-attacks. That is not the way in which we play.’
“And in addition, he is not an actual gentleman. The best way he tries to govern, he would not act the Barcelona approach on the sphere.”
It nonetheless might have gone both approach as Sala-i-Martin remembers however, for, appropriately the intervention of 1 man.
“Numerous members of the board have been in favour of Mourinho,” he stated.
“Laporta consulted with Johan [Cruyff] and stated do you suppose Pep’s prepared?
“And Johan stated sure. And when Johan says sure, it is sure.”
In the end, A-list Barcelona royalty insisted on an untested B workforce boss.
And soccer has not been the identical since.
Watch Pep Guardiola: Chasing Perfection on iPlayer. And you’ll delve deeper with an accompanying four-part Sporting Giants podcast sequence in regards to the supervisor on BBC Sounds.