On a cold December evening in 1990, the young Josep Guardiola i Sala had made his debut in FC Barcelona’s First team. A major step in the career of any player, that has changed the life of then 19 year-old Pep, forever.
From one of many ball boys who ran around the pitch, helping out the older, already legendary players, he has become a true myth of the team that raised him, marking a true evolution, from player to coach.
Since that one black and white picture after the triumph against Goteborg, the boy grew up and started training. His hard work was noticed by many. Including Johan Cruyff, who was one of his greatest inspirations.
The time spent at La Masia, Barça’s talent factory had proven to be vital in his development as a player, and later a coach. The debut was swift, and his career, as any other was full of ups and downs. However, the ups have surpassed anything else, and he became one of the people lifting the coveted Champions League trophy in 1992.
He was surrounded by numerous legendary individuals of the sport. Many have turned into life long friends, while others became rivals.
Both Puyol and Xavi are known to have received many useful advices, straight from the pitch. While Carles Puyol inherited the captain’s armband, directly from Guardiola.
He became a myth in the lives of many players of the younger generations. That is one of the reasons why Cesc Fàbregas chooses to wear the number four on his back.
He is also known as the man who noticed Leo Messi’s full potential, giving him the freedom to play as a true forward, turning him into one of the most appreciated sports personalities in the world.
Knowing that a playing career wouldn’t last forever, he decided he would give coaching a try. As the system ordered, he started off gradually and working with Barça B. During that season, he got to meet some of the players that would later be promoted into the First team, such as Pedro Rodríguez and Thiago Alcántara. Many of which have pointed out Guardiola as a big influence on their career and playing style.
The decades long youth system of La Masía, offers aspiring players a well rounded education, and an evolution of the body and mind through the different categories, all the way to a coveted sport in the First team. This philosophy of continuity was founded by Cruyff, nourished in the years after his departure, and its importance was further pointed out by Guardiola who decided to mostly “shop at home”, promoting B players into the A team.
The year 2008. had proven to be crucial for the young coach, who at the time of the takeover was only 37. Now he got to train all of the players that he got to know in his playing years. The time spent on the pitch has proven to be of incredible value to him as a coach, as it is usually the case in careers of footballers that decided to try out their luck on the other side of the bench.
It was the beginning of a new era, marked by a treble in his first year. Another one came three years later. A total of 19 in four years.
Picking up the same trophies as player and coach will always represent a very special feeling for this Catalan.
Even though often disputed in his coaching years, it’s undeniable that the players he had taken under his wing have triumphed even further. Not to mention helping Blaugranas become a perfectly advertised brand worldwide. The true revolution that he made in the footballing tactics were recognised on all of the playing fields. He picked up the best that his players had to offer, bits from Cruyff and the Former Yugoslavia and turned them into the tiki-taka that was unbreakable for years.
Even after his departure in 2012. some of the hallmarks of this style, such as high percentage of ball possession and often infinite passes, have stayed at Can Barça, including the junior categories, that never cease to impress.
As his future at Bayern is now left under a fairly large question mark, at least until the upcoming weekend, there will never be a time in which clubs around the world won’t be lining up for a chance to work with one of the people that has changed the face of modern football.