The Fallacy of Guardiola’s ‘Genius’

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Two coaches, more than any other, have been the focus of the football world these past few years: Jose Mourinho and Josep Guardiola. One a self-confessed genius (a claim I’d questioned in an earlier write-up), the other a proclaimed messiah. Of a truth, the attacking style of Guardiola’s teams is a joy to watch; same as the football of some Mourinho teams, can be tiresome. But is Guardiola as accomplished as his apologists would have us believe? Is he a genius in the real sense of the word?

First off, in football winning trophies is everything. Any fan, no matter the club affiliation, would tell you that. And they usually don’t care how you win, just win. Guardiola failed to win a trophy in his first season in England. While it’s not a crime, surely, is not genius stuff. Roberto Mancini, who rebuilt the team from the ground up, won a trophy in his second season. Manuel Pellegrini won the league in his first season. Guardiola inherited a team of Champions, a genius would have won a trophy, any trophy, with that squad in the first season.

The constant argument, the only blot against Jose Mourinho, is that he failed to win the Champions League with Real Madrid. Yet, Mourinho inherited a Real Madrid team that hadn’t won the Copa del Rey in 20 years, Spanish Liga in two years, and hadn’t progressed beyond the Round of 16 in the Champions League in six years. Madrid won the Copa del Rey in his first season, won the La Liga in his second season, and played the Semi-Final of the UCL every season under Mourinho…that either makes Mourinho a genius too, or disqualifies both of them.

Unlike the Mourinho experience at Madrid and United, Guardiola was hired by Bayern Munich for only one reason: bring the Champions League trophy back to Bavaria. They were the undisputed kings of Germany, and had nothing to prove on the local scene. But what the Spaniard would be majorly remembered for, is the 4-0 Champions League humiliation in front of their fans by Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid. A record. All coaches suffer embarrassing defeats in the league; small clubs get humiliated in the Champions League, but big clubs that are coached by a ‘genius’, should not be in that category.

Sir Alex Ferguson won the Triple with United, Mourinho has won the Champions League with two different teams, and won the quadruple with (a troubled) Inter. That may not be ‘genius’ stuff; but ‘winning everything’ with a ‘set’ team isn’t genius either. And playing ‘sexy football’ certainly is not. The Dutch national team of the early 70’s played sexy football, the Brazil team to the 1982 World Cup played sexy football, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal play sexy football. All these teams are not considered ‘great’ teams, they are footnotes in history. Sexy football does not a genius make.

There is no doubt that Pep Guardiola is a good coach. But is he a great coach? A genius? Or just a man who happened to be in the right place at the right time at Barcelona? The ‘failure’ at Bayern and big budget of Manchester City have left the questions unanswered…maybe the future will. 


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