Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Less than 12 months ago Pep Guardiola feared he could be facing the sack at Manchester City after his first trophyless season in an almost impeccable coaching career.
Now he has added to three league titles in both Spain and Germany by conquering England in a style that has provoked comparisons with the greatest sides ever seen in the Premier League.
Used to the highest of demands from his spells at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola believed other clubs may have been more ruthless after City finished 15 points behind Chelsea in third in the Premier League last season.
But City were never likely to cut Guardiola adrift so quickly having waited so long to land him in the first place.
That patience has been rewarded in spectacular fashion as City wrapped up the title with five games to spare to match Manchester United’s record for the earliest Premier League title win in 2000/2001.
While Guardiola has admitted to doubts over his future last season, he never wavered in the way he wanted his side to play.
“Last season many times when I was asked — it works to play my way and I said ‘I am going to insist’, I never had a doubt about that,” Guardiola said recently.
Mocked at times in the British media for stating he does not train players how to tackle, questions were raised whether Guardiola’s style, learned at the knee of the legendary Johan Cruyff at Barcelona, was compatible with the more physical approach of the Premier League.
“For those of us brought up on those ideas, who have internalised them so deeply, it’s like a religion,” former Barcelona great Xavi Hernandez told the Guardian newspaper of his old coach. “Pep is a purist.”
– ‘Ruthless, intense, obsessive’ –
Guardiola has proven his point, but he had to show a ruthless streak of his own along the way.
Claudio Bravo’s series of costly errors in goal saw him replaced by the excellent Ederson to give City a far more stable platform from which to build.
Critics point to the enormous sums City have splashed on players before and during Guardiola’s reign, with nearly £500 million ($700 million) spent on transfer fees in the past two seasons alone.
But the secret to Guardiola’s success is also taking the raw talent at his disposal and harnessing it into something even more special.