The tactician has accomplished in three short years what many take a lifetime to achieve, but there's still more to do for the philosophical coach
By KS Leong
For those who still politely decline to accept that Pep Guardiola’s Dream Team are the best footballing club side in the history of the game, Barcelona’s domineering 3-1 win over Manchester United in the 2010-11 Champions League final on Saturday night should go some way to confirming their status as one of the greatest of all time.
There should be little argument, however, that Guardiola is now one of the most successful coaches/managers in club football, if not then certainly the most prolific in terms of trophies-per-year ratio.
In his first three seasons, Pep has picked up 10 trophies. To put it into perspective, one of Real Madrid’s greatest coaches Miguel Munoz lifted 15 titles in 15 years. Barca’s equivalent Johan Cruyff won 11 in eight years at Camp Nou; Bob Paisley boasted 19 in nine years with Liverpool; Jose Mourinho claimed 17 in 10 years with several different clubs; while Sir Alex Ferguson has amassed 36 pieces of silverware in 24 long years at Manchester United.
Unlike Ferguson or Paisley or Munoz, Pep does not have the intention to remain at Camp Nou for decades to create a dynasty. By the summer of 2012, he will reach the four-year anniversary – the norm in Spanish football nowadays if you are ridiculously successful – and it is almost certain that he will leave his beloved Catalan club for the time being.
In that 12 months, there’s still a lot for Guardiola to do to cement his legacy at Barca.
|DEFEND CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CROWN
|Pep and his troops can become the first team in the modern Champions League era to successfully defend their European crown, and the first since Milan and Arrigo Sacchi back in 1989-90 during the old competition format. If he succeeds in doing so, he will also join Bob Paisley in becoming the only manager to lift Europe’s top prize three times in total.
It’s the Holy Grail of achievements currently being chased frantically by Ferguson and Mourinho.
|DEFEND LA LIGA TITLE
|Having already won three successive league titles in Spain, Guardiola is still not the most successful Barca coach in that respect. Johan Cruyff won La Liga four times on the trot through 1991-94, and Pep will have a chance to join his Dutch mentor in the Camp Nou history books if he can guide the team to another league crown this time next year.
And if he really fancies having a crack at La Liga’s record of most successive title defences by a coach, he can stay on one more year and try to equal Miguel Munoz’s mark of five in a row with Real Madrid from 1960-65.
|AVOID SILLY TRANSFERS
|Although signing players is not Guardiola’s prerogative, he does have a role to play alongside sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta to ensure the club acquires the right players. For all of the praise showered on Barca’s talented youth products, they have wasted a large chunk of their bank balance bringing in new players who have hastily headed straight for the exit door: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Martin Caceres, Keirrison, Alexandr Hleb, just to name a few.
If 2012 is to be Pep’s final year as coach with Barca, then he has to make sure he leaves the club in good health in terms of finances and squad strength.
|GROOM THE NEXT GENERATION
|Guardiola’s work in Barcelona’s B team prior to his appointment as first team coach has served him well. He knows La Masia inside out. He has already brought through the likes of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Pedro, turning them from promising young stars into multiple Champions League winners and World Cup heroes.
But the next generation of Barca graduates are already waiting to be groomed, from Thiago Alcantara to Jeffren, to the younger generation of Gerard Delofeu and Rafa Alcantara. Pep’s legacy at the club will truly be rubber-stamped if one day in the near future, Barcelona win the Champions League with 11 homegrown players on the pitch.
|KEEP THE FAMILY TOGETHER
|Three years ago, then-president Joan Laporta took a major gamble when he decided to promote an inexperienced Guardiola to become first team coach. The only advantage in the appointment was that the former midfielder understands the club’s philosophies on and off the pitch. It’s this familiarity with the principles that allowed him to mould a strong, close-knit family in the squad, keeping his core group of players together while dispensing of those that he sees unfit to occupy his dressing room.
If Guardiola does leave Barca next year, then this could be his most important assignment for the club yet if they are to continue dominating for years to come.
Records are meant to be broken, legacies meant to be sealed. Guardiola has smashed records like Lionel Messi smashes in goals. But while people often forget the bombastic numbers and staggering statistics, the lasting legacies tend to live on forever.