He has, however, overseen a remarkable transformation in 2017-18, with City currently on an 18-game winning run which has carried them 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
Belgian midfielder De Bruyne has played a leading role in a period of domination at the Etihad Stadium, with Xavi comparing his value to the cause to that of Argentine talisman Messi at Barca.
“Pep’s teams win as teams, but even the most special sides need that player to look to when they need something special,” the World Cup winner said in The Mirror.
“At Barcelona we had it with Messi and this team Manchester City have it with De Bruyne.
“Every time he has the ball, you get the feeling that he is going to do something special with it.
“Not every game you can win 3-0 or 4-0, especially in the Champions League and that is when you need one moment of brilliance from a special player.
“David Silva is playing the best football of his career. I can see just from watching him he is learning off Pep.
“He is not a young player anymore, but when you have a player of such intelligence and such vision, it does not matter.”
Bringing the best out of those at his disposal is a skill Guardiola honed during his time in charge of Barcelona, and Xavi says the Catalan is now overseeing a similar project in Manchester.
The legendary midfielder added: “City are playing with The DNA of Barcelona, but that is no surprise. Pep has Barcelona DNA and transmits that to Manchester City.
“The football they are playing is mesmerising. They are the in-form team in Europe and as good as their players are, Pep has to take credit for the football they are playing and the form they are in.
“Pep teams do not just happen, these record runs do not just happen, treble-winning seasons do not just happen - they happen because Pep is obsessive about winning.
“He is focused, he hates to lose and that becomes infectious with the players.”
Xavi added: “Last season people were saying he had to adjust his style for the Premier League.
“He refused and now people are saying Manchester City are playing the best football the Premier League has ever seen.
“I knew he would not compromise on his beliefs. Many coaches have the same beliefs as Pep on how the game should be played, but only Pep can communicate it at the most pure level.”