ABU DHABI, UAE – NOVEMBER 21: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola signs a … [+]
Lynne Cameron Manchester City FC via Getty Images
Pep Guardiola has finally ended speculation about his future at Manchester City by signing a two-year contract extension.
Explaining the reasons why the Catalan, who was approaching the last six months of his previous contract, said he “couldn’t be in a better place”.
“I can’t thank everyone at the club enough for trusting me. I’m happy and comfortable, and I have everything I need to do my job as well as possible”, added Guardiola, “I know the next chapter of this club will be incredible over the next decade, it has happened over the last 10 years, and it will happen in the next 10 years because this club is so stable.
“I still feel we can achieve more together and that’s why I want to stay and keep fighting for trophies.”
If Guardiola goes through with this current deal, it will mean he has spent three times more at City than at Bayern Munich and more than twice as much as he did at Barcelona.
That’s a big change for a manager who previously had a reputation for lasting only 3-4 years.
This begs the question; How has he convinced himself to see nearly a decade in the cold and wet North West of England?
The answer is as much about what Manchester City don’t do as what they do.
Pressure cooker Barcelona
MADRID, SPAIN – MAY 25: Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola gestures during the Copa del Rey … [+]
Quotations attached to contract ads are often filled with empty platitudes and little insight.
But Guardiola’s explanation of the factors that convinced him to stay was revealing.
“[Chairman] Khaldoon [Al Mubarak] he never pushed me,” she said, “He never said ‘Pep you’ve got to do it’. He respects me a lot and is an example of how we have been since day one.
“He gives his opinion, I give my opinion and then everyone works in the way they think they have to for the benefit of the club and the whole organization, from top to bottom. In the end, we decide ‘OK we will do’ and after the decision with the family it was right, so I said let’s do it”.
The description of that relationship couldn’t be more in contrast to his experiences at FC Barcelona, where off-field drama and boardroom politics often weighed heavily on the coach.
Guardiola explained that he was “exhausted” when he announced his departure from his boyhood club after four years.
“Time has taken its toll,” the Catalan said then, “I get up every day and I don’t feel the same. I go with the understanding that I have done my duty.”
His departure was still shrouded in some mystery, but a sense of the internal drama facing Guardiola emerged during his sabbatical away from the game.
Despite traveling to New York, he was repeatedly dragged into the Camp Nou soap opera.
“I told them [the president and his directors] I was 6,000 kilometers away and I asked them to leave me alone, but they haven’t kept their word,” he said after becoming Bayern Munich coach, “too many things have happened that have crossed the line.”
From suggestions that a falling out with the players was behind his departure to being accused of failing to see former assistant Tito Vilanova while he was being treated for cancer, disputes during his sabbatical led to Guardiola’s departure in Germany with the scars of FC Barcelona’s politics.
Bayern had to be more stable, but in Germany too the Catalan found himself facing dramatically with his club mates.
Beef in Bavaria
MUNICH, GERMANY – DECEMBER 18: Josep Guardiola, coach of FC Bayern Muenchen, speaks with the … [+]
When Guardiola appeared at Bayern Munich the feeling was that this could be the environment where he built a dynasty.
Away from the excitement and politics of Barcelona, the Bavarians had the stability and resources for Catalan to flourish.
But from the start of his reign, there were problems with injuries. In his first season, especially, Guardiola devoted much of his managerial shrewdness to devising ways to deal with the loss of key players.
At the heart of these problems was a culture clash between the coach and Bayern’s long-standing medical team.
It culminated with the departure of the influential club doctor, Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt and three other members of his team after the 3-1 defeat by Porto in the Champions League in 2015.
Müller-Wohlfahrt has offered a scathing analysis of the dispute in the years since.
“Guardiola was often portrayed in the media as an innovative, if not revolutionary, manager,” he said.
“But at Bayern Munich, he turned back the clock a lot. He even went so far as to change our well-rehearsed and medically thought-out preparation program before actual football training.”
It would be wrong to say that the clash with the medical team was the only reason for his departure, Guardiola had a good relationship with club bigwigs Uli Hoeness and Kalle Heinz-Rummenigge.
It wasn’t that he was overwhelmed by everything like he was at Barça.
A more likely explanation is that he was drawn to City because, unlike Barça or Bayern, they had been preparing their infrastructure specifically for the same manager.
Creating a favorable environment for Pep
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 9: A mural of Manchester manager/coach Pep Guardiola … [+]
After Guardiola left Barcelona, Manchester City moved to bring in Catalan sporting director Txiki Begiristain and CEO Ferran Soriano.
Both had a strong working relationship with Guardiola as part of Joan Laporta’s first term as Barcelona president.
Begiristain is particularly close to the City manager, last year citing the former Barça player as the reason why he had stayed in Manchester.
“Working here with people like Txiki is a joy,” he said, “it’s hard to find. We met almost 30 years ago, played together and had a relationship in Barcelona. He trusted me when I was nobody, training in the fourth division.
“One of the reasons I extended my time here was because of him. We met when I was 19 and we became very good friends. We work well together. We analyze why when we win or lose and we don’t judge each other” .
It’s not just about having these two former Barça managers at the club, it’s about the configuration. Just as Liverpool have continued to develop their infrastructure around Jurgen Klopp, City have adapted their approach to Guardiola.
From all the academy age groups playing in the same style as the first team to the huge new training center in front of the training ground, the environment couldn’t be more suitable for the Catalan.
He doesn’t get all the players he asks for, but he has control and, more importantly, for Guardiola, he lets himself do his thing.
There have been off-field dramas at City, most notably the overturned Champions League ban by UEFA EFA , but as far as Guardiola’s relationship with the hierarchy is concerned it has been quiet and calm from the start.
And that’s why he stays.