It is a sad day for the football fans all over the world. It is a sad day for the La Liga and it is indeed a very sad day for Barcelona. Pep Guardiola, the mastermind of tiki-taka has stepped down from the job of managerial role and with that an era has come to an end.
The 41-year-old dyed in the wool Catalan who served his boyhood club as player and then as manager found hard to continue despite enjoying great success as a manager first with the reserve team and then with the seniors.
He was preparing for this day. Back in December, 2011 he felt his era is coming to an end. However, like every time he always thought for the interest of the team, even if at the cost of his own exhaustion – mentally and physically. He didn’t even let his boys feel that beneath the rough and tough smiles and serious look, somewhere ‘another’ unfamiliar Pep is beseeching for rest and break from daily stress.
He didn’t want to put his team in jeopardy as Barcelona were competing on two fronts – domestic and Europe – instead politely extended his deal to six months. But a defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League semifinal and home defeat by Real Madrid in the league – which effectively ended Barcelona’s title ambitions – prompted him finally not to keep everyone in dark rather to go publicly with his decisions.
It’s not like he is running away. Why should he run away? From whom he should run away? He has achieved everything in three years which many great managers have failed to do so in the entire life. Put simply, he is physically and mentally jaded.
He is not after lucrative contracts as well. He is not ready to ply his trade in other parts of the world, especially the rich football money-land of England. He is so down to earth and probably that’s why he earned respect and sympathy from every corners of the world that understands the language of football.
He wanted to quit back in 2010. Ex-president Joan Laporta who has overseen one of the glorious spells in their club’s history probably understood that Pep won’t be here too long. Speaking to The Times he said “[Guardiola] is a very thoughtful person and he knows what he means to the club. He wants to carry on, but there are a number of things he wants to think about. I am optimistic, but it’s not something that you should decide in the short term.”
Money was secondary for him. Burnout was the biggest concern. Above all he is a Barcelona fan and the longest serving Catalan coach in 40 years. Coaching at Catalunya is not only demanding, but very brutal and all-consuming at the same time. Guardiola knows all these things; hence it was not a “simple decision” for him.
“The new coach will give things I cannot give any more,” he said. “You can only recover that by resting, getting away from everything, because it would have been a bad idea to continue.
“Perhaps we wouldn’t have gone wrong but I have the perception that we would. I know it’s a privileged place but it’s my time to go. I am going to recover myself. Time has taken its toll. It’s been three days of madness but it’s what had to happen. I’m going with the understanding that I’ve done my duty.”
His life was further made difficult by the constant barbs of Jose Mourinho, the Real Madrid manager. Madrid under Mourinho has gone from strength to strength and this season they have been superior to their archrivals. It has been suggested that Guardiola had to make several bold and difficult decisions over strengthening the squad, which at times became too much of strain to bear.
Football management is indeed one heck of a job and though we love to criticize managers and showcase our punditry we don’t often realize how difficult it is to thrive under constant pressure. Even highly successful manager like Jose Mourinho needed break to continue his illustrious career. The daily drudgery takes toll on everyone and young Guardiola was not an exception. And then you start to admire two veterans who are still going young and strong – Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Facing the pressure and taking it as a challenge is the hallmark of a great manager. Kenny Dalglish couldn’t cope up with the mental stress he was undergoing and it took him nearly 20 years to come back to terms and start delivering again. Hope Guardiola’s return won’t be too long but in the coming days entire football fraternity will miss him…
Follow Saikat Mandal on twitter @SMandal87