Whichever way you look at it, Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge at Barcelona has been a phenomenal success.
On Wednesday, he became the youngest manager to ever lead a team to Champions League success, and in doing so, he rounded off the Spanish treble: the La Liga title, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League in one season. Not bad for a 38-year-old manager who is currently managing his first ever professional side.
Josep or ‘Pep’ was born in Barcelona in 1971. His footballing talent was became evident from an early age and he spent six years coming through the ranks at Barcelona’s youth academy, planter Barcelonista. He made his senior debut in La Liga in 1990, aged just 21. Under Johan Cruyff, Guardiola – playing as a commanding defensive midfielder – soon went on to become an integral part of their squad.
In total, he spent eleven successful years in Barca’s first team, and was a key player in leading the club to their first ever European Cup triumph in 1992. He was made Barcelona captain in 1997 by then manager, Louis van Gaal.
In 2001, he left Spain for Italy and joined Serie A club, Brescia for a season, where he made 11 appearances, scoring two goals. The following season he moved to AS Roma for another season, where he only featured four times.
Unfortunately, his time in Italy was surrounded by controversy when he was forced to serve a four-month ban for testing positive for steroids. But thankfully just two years ago in 2007, his appeal against the charges was successful, and he was cleared.
Guardiola retired from professional football in May 2006, but spent little time away from the game – and Barcelona. He was appointed manager of Barca’s ‘B’ team a year later in the summer of 2007.
And before the end of his first season in charge of Barca’s second string, it was announced that he would succeed Frank Rijkaard as Barcelona manager at the start of this season.
What Guardiola has achieved in his first season in charge at Barca is nothing short of remarkable. The style of play he has implemented this season has been largely focused on possession and passing and movement. And when his side click into gear, it is beautiful to watch.
The way in which his team so outclassed Manchester United in the Champions League final on Wednesday proved to be a thrilling climax to an already memorable debut season. The question now is: how can he possibly do better next season? Simple, really. Do it all again.