We all know Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will host Liverpool at the Etihad on Sunday, but here are a few things you may not know about one of the world’s greatest football managers.
1 His assistant never played football
One of Guardiola’s most trusted members of staff is Manuel Estiarte, playing a key role at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But Estiarte was a water polo player, turning out for Spain more than 500 times.
So why does Guardiola have a water polo player in his backroom staff?
“Manuel helps me enormously in a host of practical ways and is always happy to take on some of the more irksome parts of my job,” Guardiola has said.
“All of that is vital to me, but more than anything it is his loyalty and emotional support I prize.
“When I’m going through a difficult period, maybe even struggling with self-doubt, he is there for me. And he’s there to enjoy the good times as well of course.
“I regularly say to him, ‘Manuel, what’s your take on this?’ and can always rely on getting an honest, intelligent response.
“He interprets body language brilliantly, too, and knows exactly what a particular look or gesture means. The true greats all share this quality, this intuition.”
2 Michel Platini wouldn’t sign an autograph for him
Back when he was a ball boy, Guardiola removed a poster from his wall of the France and Juventus great, hoping his hero would sign it for him. Unfortunately, Platini wasn’t having any of it.
3 His coaching career began in Mexico
Although his first gig in management was with Barcelona B, Guardiola got his first taste of coaching a professional side when he was in Mexico.
In late 2005, Guardiola played for newly-formed side Dorados de Sinaloa. It sounds like a bizarre choice, given that Guardiola has as good as retired from his playing career, but the veteran central midfielder admired the Mexican side’s coach, Juanma Lillo, and saw it as his chance to learn from him first hand.
Reportedly, Guardiola took notes during training sessions and would stay behind to pick his mentor’s brains afterwards. When he wasn’t playing, he would be sitting next to Lillo on the bench. Guardiola would often bark orders from the touchline, while Lillo sat silently watching the game.
Lillo later said: “I knew he was going to be a great coach. Pep’s the opposite of the rest: everyone else has been a player, then later they gradually become coaches. Not with him. He was playing while he was waiting to become a coach!”
4 He has a stadium named after him
It’s not the Nou Camp, but Guardiola was born in a small Catalan town called Santpedor. To honour his remarkable achievements at Barcelona, they named the local team’s stadium Camp Municipal Josep Guardiola.
5 He’s an author
There are a number of books (good ones, too) written about Guardiola, but Pep has penned his very own one with renowned Spanish journalists Lu Martin and Miguel Rico.
Written in 2001, La meva gent, el meu futbol (my people, my football) is partly about Guardiola’s style and part biography, straight from the great man’s mouth.
But if you want to get hold of it, you’ll struggle. It has long been out of print and Guardiola has no desire to see it republished.
6 He loves Peter Crouch
Don’t we all? But it comes as a surprise that the king of tiki-taka appreciates the quintessential “old-fashioned English striker”. Guardiola wrote a series of articles for El Pais during the 2006 World Cup, which provided an insight into one of football’s great brains.
The most shocking thing you’d have found in there was his love for the 6ft 7in Stoke striker.
“Wayne Rooney is perhaps more decisive and beautiful to watch,” he wrote.
“But what’s certain is that Crouch conditions you more. With Crouch, you have to play to Crouch’s game. And playing to Crouch’s game gives you a lot.”