With Pep Guardiola set to leave Bayern Munich at the conclusion of the 2015/16 season, the 45-year-old Spaniard will likely be the top target for clubs seeking new coaches this summer. So far, we're still not sure where Guardiola might end up club-wise, though he has intimated that he wants to work in England. Not surprisingly, the list of clubs that could hire Pep reads like a list of the Premier League's best teams. Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea have all been linked to potential deals with Bayern's championship king.
But is Pep Guardiola really that good? Could he really take a struggling soccer club like Manchester United and turn it back into a football dynasty? Or have his coaching abilities been exaggerated and inflated by the teams he was handed and the leagues in which he's worked?
"My Grandfather Would Win the Title with Barcelona and Bayern Munich"
Such a question was raised by Dimitri Seluk, manager for Manchester City's Yaya Toure. Toure, who played for Pep at Barcelona, could be reunited with his former coach if the Sky Blues do indeed win the race to hire Guardiola. Seluk conceded that Guardiola was and is a great football coach, but also questioned whether or not he's quite as great as he's made out to be.
"The truth is that my grandfather would win the title with Barcelona and Bayern Munich because they are big clubs with great players."
While Seluk's comment was hyperbolic, he does have a point buried underneath the exaggeration. Guardiola coached at FC Barcelona from 2008 to 2012-winning three La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey trophies, three Spanish Super Cups, two Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, and two FIFA Club World Cups. In his first season, he even coached Barca to a treble.
No one would (or could) diminish those accomplishments, but Guardiola certainly had talent on his side. His soccer squad in 2008/09 is rightly considered one of the best ever, including Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, and plenty of other remarkable talents. If there's a squad that any coach could win titles with, that lineup just might have been it.
Pep has had great players at Bayern Munich, too. Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery, Mario Gotze, Arjen Robben: Guardiola has had the benefit of working with some truly remarkable players since coming to Germany in 2013. He's already won two Bundesliga titles with the football club, and will likely notch a third this spring.
Talent or Circumstance?
So what's the verdict? Did Guardiola win all of those titles and trophies because of his own coaching talent? Or because of the circumstances (and money) that allowed him to work with some of the brightest talents in the football world?
If we're being honest, it's probably a bit of both. Sure, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have accounted for 13 of the 18 Ballon d'Or finalist positions in the past six years-with the other five all filled by Cristiano Ronaldo. But it does take a world-class coach to make a bunch of soccer celebrities play together as a strong team, and that's what Guardiola has been able to do repeatedly at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Just how much of Guardiola's track record is due to working with some of the best players in the world? We'll find out next season. Part of the reason that the Premier League is such a natural choice for Guardiola is that it will present a new challenge.
Indeed, no matter where he ends up, he won't be joining a club with the dynasty of Barcelona or Bayern Munich. United was close to that level with Alex Ferguson but has dipped since, while Chelsea have been borderline dreadful this season. Arsenal are the most consistent team in the Premier League but haven't won the league in over a decade, while Man City have been very solid recently but have yet to win back-to-back titles or extend their success to the Champions League. Regardless of where Pep goes, we will be able to see just how great of a coach he really is.
Celebrate Pep Guardiola's final months in Germany today, with a new Bayern Munich shirt 2015/16 from Soccer Box.