According to former Barcelona captain Xavi, new Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is “one of the few people” who can change the English game.
Guardiola headlines a recent influx of world-class managers into the Premier League, including Antonio Conte (Chelsea) and Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool), following his arrival from German champions Bayern Munich.
But Xavi, who plays for Qatari team Al Sadd, believes his former coach and team-mate has the capability to make a lasting philosophical impact on English football.
“He changed world football. He did not just change Barca, he changed world football. I think he is one of the few people who can change English football,” Xavi said during a Sky Sports documentary focused on the manager.
Guardiola’s appointment was first confirmed in February amid much fanfare in the blue half of Manchester, after highly successful periods with Barcelona and Bayern.
With Xavi and Andres Iniesta as the focal point in Barcelona’s high-volume passing and aggressive pressing, particularly, Guardiola’s style redefined the modern game tactically.
Barcelona won three LaLiga titles and the Champions League twice during Guardiola’s four seasons at Camp Nou, and after a sabbatical, he guided Bayern to three consecutive Bundesliga crowns in three years.
Despite his intimidating managerial CV, Guardiola’s move to the Premier League is expected to be his toughest challenge yet.
However, Xavi believes it is a challenge Guardiola will overcome.
“The first thing I remember him saying as a coach was that he would not tolerate any player working hard,” Xavi said.
“‘This is the only thing that I require, that you work hard for the group’. This was a surprise for us. The high pressing was brilliant. It was a real football revolution, a modern kind of football.
“Within a few years, no one played long balls anymore. Even Real Madrid changed their style. Pep’s first year started this football revolution. We made history. Not just for the victories, but also for the way we played.”
Guardiola’s first test will be at home to Sunderland on Saturday, when City begin their Premier League campaign, before travelling to Steaua Bucharest for the opening leg of their Champions League qualifier on August 16.