Pep Profile

Josep "Pep" Guardiola i Sala (Catalan pronunciation: [ʑuˈzɛp ɡwəɾˈðjɔɫə]; born 18 January 1971 in Santpedor, Barcelona, Catalonia) is a former Spanish football midfielder and current FC Barcelona manager. He spent the majority of his playing career with Barcelona, and was part of Johan Cruyff's dream team that won FC Barcelona's first European Cup. He was captain of the club for the final four years of his time with Barcelona. Guardiola also played for, among others, Brescia Calcio, A.S. Roma, Al-Ahli and Dorados de Sinaloa. As an international, Guardiola played for Spain and some friendly exhibition games for Catalonia. After retiring as a player, Guardiola became coach of FC Barcelona B. On 8 May 2008, Barcelona president Joan Laporta announced that Guardiola would succeed Frank Rijkaard as the first team manager. He signed his contract on 5 June 2008. In his first season as manager, FC Barcelona won the treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. In doing so, Guardiola became the youngest UEFA Champions League winning manager ever. The following season, Guardiola and Barcelona won the Supercopa de España against Athletic Club Bilbao, the UEFA Super Cup against Shakhtar Donetsk, and the FIFA Club World Cup against Estudiantes, bringing the manager's tally to a perfect six trophies in six competitions thus completing the first ever sextuple.

Guardiola joined La Masia aged 13 and rose through the ranks at the youth academy of Barcelona for six years, making his début in 1990 against Cádiz. As Phil Ball writes in Morbo,

"In his first week at the club, Cruyff turned up unannounced at the 'Mini' stadium, a venue just down the road from Camp Nou used by the youth and B teams. Just before half-time he wandered into the dug-out and asked Charly Rexach, the youth team manager at the time, the name of the young skinny lad playing on the right side of midfield. 'Guardiola – good lad' came the reply. Cruyff ignored the comment and told Rexach to move him into the middle for the second half, to play as pivote, a difficult position to adapt to and one not used by many teams in Spain at the time. 'Pep' Guardiola adjusted immediately, as Cruyff had suspected he would, and when he moved up into the first-team in 1990 he became the true fulcrum of the Dream Team."

Johan Cruyff utilised the young defensive midfielder in the absence of the suspended Guillermo Amor. He became a first team regular in the 1991-92 season and at only 20 years old was a key component of a side that won La Liga, the European Cup and the Spain national side that triumphed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The prestigious Italian magazine Guerin Sportivo heralded Guardiola as the finest player in the world under the age of 21.

Cruyff's Dream Team went on to retain the La Liga title in the 92-93 and 93-94 seasons. The side was strengthened by the recent signing of Romário, again reached the UEFA Champions League Final, but were humbled by Capello's Milan in Athens, and lost the match 0-4.

Cruyff left in 1996, with FC Barcelona finishing 4th in the 1994-95 season and 3rd in the 1995-96 season, but Guardiola retained his position at the center of FC Barcelona's midfield. In the 1996-97 season, FC Barcelona, this time ledd by Bobby Robson, won three cups - the Copa del Rey, the UEFA Super Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup. Much of the Dream Team had by this time left, with new signings such as Luís Figo and Ronaldo taking over from Hristo Stoichkov and Txiki Begiristain. At the end of the 1996-97 season, FC Barcelona rejected offers from A.S. Roma and Parma F.C. (of around 300 million pesetas)[citation needed] for Guardiola. After prolonged and complicated contract talks, Guardiola signed a new contract with the Catalan club which extended his stay until 2001. His buyout clause was fixed at 15.000 million pesetas, the second highest in the Spanish league.

A calf muscle injury ruled Guardiola out of most of the 1997-98 season, in which FC Barcelona won a league and cup double under new manager Louis van Gaal. He returned to action the following season and FC Barcelona once again won the league thanks largely to the performances of Rivaldo and Figo.[original research?] On 8 June 1998, Guardiola underwent surgery to try to solve once and for all the problems that he was experiencing with his calf which had led to him missing the 1998 FIFA World Cup for Spain. A largely disappointing 1999-00 season ended once again in surgery as Guardiola missed the last three months of the season due to a serious ankle injury.

FC Barcelona didn't win any silverware during the 2001 season and finished fourth place in the league, but qualifying for the Champions League. On 11th of April 2001, FC Barcelona's captain announced his intention to leave the club after 17 years of service. He stated that it was a personal decision and, in part, a response to what he perceived as football heading in a new, more physical, direction.[cite this quote] On 24 June 2001, Guardiola played his last match with Barça in the last game of the season against Celtic.

Guardiola played 479 games for the club, in 12 seasons in the Barcelona first team, winning 16 trophies. At the press conference after the Celtic game, he said: "It's been a long journey. I'm happy, proud, happy with the way people treated me and I have made many friends. I cannot ask for more. I have had many years in the elite. I did not come to make history but to make my own history."[cite this quote] Guardiola was slow, but intelligently gifted with skill and foresight, rarely scored goals but set up from difficult positions on the field,[original research?] he won six league titles, a European Cup and Olympic gold, amongst other numerous trophies. Born in the Catalan town of Santpedor, schooled barely 100 metres from Camp Nou and resident at La Masia, the traditional farmhouse that stands incongruously in its shadow, he was a part of a gifted side Barcelona produced, ordering, constructing, constantly moving the ball. He has been called the hero of a number of Spain's current midfielders, as Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas[3] has stated that Guardiola was his role model and hero.