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'Guardiolaism'

By Mark Burke



Shortlisted for FIFA's World coach of the year award, former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola attends a press conference before the FIFA Ballon d'Or awards ceremony on January 7, 2013 at the Kongresshaus in Zurich
Shortlisted for FIFA's World coach of the year award, former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola attends a press conference before the FIFA Ballon d'Or awards ceremony on January 7, 2013 at the Kongresshaus in Zurich


Reading Guillem Balagues absolutely superb book 'Pep' gives a fascinating insight into the coach and more importantly the man. 

Having been involved in football it seems to me that Guardiola is not suited to football at all.    A world where values don't exist, 'philosophies' are terms used to impress journalists or to bamboozle directors in order to gain entry into a club, a world where principles are cast aside when the wind blows in the wrong direction.   

Guardiola seems too principled, too honest, too proud, too stubborn to survive or even exist in such a shallow, short-term, self- interested world.  

Jose Mourinho seems to be his polar opposite, everything in the service of winning, ruthless, cunning, brilliant, with a goal in mind and will bend and stretch to suit the aims.   Although they are cast as polar opposites their football philosophies are drawn from and influenced, albeit in different fashions, from the Dutch-Michels-Cruyff-Van Gaal school of football thought.  

The personal contrast between him and his arch- nemesis Jose Mourinho may be great but on a football level it is maybe not so stark as one might think, just differing in the small details within philosophies that every great coach has, their own aims, culture and influences.  

Guardiola is incredibly rigid in his faith in his chosen ideology, a zealots approach to a doctrine that must be adhered to and if not functioning, and this is the crucial difference between the two, then the doctrine must be improved upon, bettered and honed but NEVER altered.   I've listened to the childish argument that any coach could do what Guardiola has done with such a group if players, it's an argument that comes from the mouths of those who don't understand the game, don't understand people and definitely dont understand footballers.  

To mould 20 personalities, 20 human beings to think the same thing at the same time, to consistently convince these people that what you ask them to do is in their best interests as individuals, as people and footballers,  is a difficult task in any situation but throw in a footballers ego, confidence, arrogance (borne of knowing they are good) insecurity, doubt, worry then the mix is an explosive cocktail waiting to explode if the right person is not leading.   

I've seen changing rooms where the manager is holding a team sheet and shaking as he reads it out, automatically the 'pack' (and it is a pack) smells this fear and respect is diminished and possibly never recovered.   Guardiola has achieved what he set out to do, something Cruyff talked of and achieved - namely leaving 'something' behind.    Not 'just' trophies and titles but a feeling, emotion, something that transcends football and lives on in the hearts of football in Barcelona and beyond.  

People will remember the trophies and the titles but in the future when people speak of this Barcelona era it will be a 'global' memory of what this team and its coach gave us.    The feeling we had when we saw a team treating with reverence and love, the very thing which without we have no game, the thing that hypnotises us all - the ball.    The team plays with a very strict adherence to certain principles that manifests itself in football that looks so delightfully natural and normal but is, in fact, razor sharp in its detail and its carrying out of the golden rules set down by its coach.   

This can only be truly understood and appreciated by those in the game who know the difficulties this style can bring, let alone executing it at such a rarefied level.   Which brings the question? Is this an exportable 'commodity'?   I think it is if that vital element needed to implement is given - time. Time to convince all those it's necessary to convince, first the club owner, then the coaching staff, then the players and finally the supporters.  

The model at Barcelona is the culmination of 30-40 years of convincing, fighting, politics, sweat, struggle and tears. To do the same again would take the right environment, the right people in charge who have been convinced and seen the end results but also seen and 'felt' the struggle and pain to reach such a beautiful spectacle.     WIN and NOW are the new Gods.   

Due to the nature of the game today,  long-term has been expunged from the Football lexicon, WIN and NOW are the new Gods.    But here is where I think Guardiolaism can work elsewhere due to his personality and his belief, both in himself and the philosophy.    People will see that he means what he says, this is not a politician who, like a plastic bag in the wind, gets blown around and is swayed by outside forces.   The challenge for him is to win according to his beliefs and, if the team falls short and doesn't win then the goal will be to lay down something that ultimately leaves an imprint, creates a real identity that can be 'sold' to the world rather than artificial 'brand creation' through empty, soulless marketing  strategies purely designed to dip into pockets of faraway 'fans'.   

You cannot rush to 'create' a legend, to 'create' a product (surely the worst word in the football bubble)a club has to grow from something more than winning, like Manchester Utd, the legend has come not only from winning but adherence to a certain WAY of winning while at the same time not forgetting the practical, ruthless realities of the game.    Guardiola will be looking for a club that will support his attempt to build something that is remembered long after the trophies have been locked away.   Let's wait and see where it is.