Pep Guardiola’s resignation this week, although not a complete shock, marks the end of a stunning era at Barcelona. His philosophy of how the game should be played has ultimately developed one of the greatest teams ever to grace the planet. However, is he already worthy of a place in Play with Flair’s Hall of Fame? Or should it be Johan Cruyff, the man who developed Guardiola as a player at Barcelona and whose Dutch influence has left a permanent mark on ‘The Beautiful Game’.
In terms of achievements in the game, Cruyff is more than worthy of being named one of the greatest players of all time.
As a player, he won the Ballon d’Or three times and has won 24 titles with Ajax, Barcelona and Feyenoord. His vision for a great pass made him stand out as one of the attacking players in football and the ‘Cruyff turn’ demonstrated the skill and intelligence that made him a legend in the game.
His achievements as a manager are also superb, but it was a return to Barcelona helped to influence a new generation in football. His free-flowing system, that he developed succesfully at Ajax, created a Barcelona team that was capable of winning the La Liga title four times.
There is no doubt that he showed Guardiola how the game should be played. Cruyff even changed the role of Guardiola in the team, so that he became a defensive midfielder that could also engineer many of Barcelona’s attacking moves.
Cruyff’s love for the game and the Catalans can still be seen. Although they are not recognised by FIFA or UEFA, he has been manager of the Catalan national team since 2009. Yet, many have said that his special style of play can be seen in the way that Spain have won both the European Championships in 2008 and the World Cup in 2010.
With Guardiola’s outstanding success as a young manager, it is easy to forget that his achievements at Barcelona are equally as remarkable as a player. He spent 12 seasons at the Camp Nou, winning 16 trophies and was instrumental in Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’. Many in the Catalan region already idolised him as a captain before he became the first team coach.
However, when a manager is in charge of arguably the greatest club team ever, he cannot be forgotten. His philosophy of ‘Total Football’ was clearly developed under Cruyff but he has already acheived more than his teacher by winning 13 trophies as manager of the Barcelona.
Lionel Messi is the star attraction of the side, having won the Ballon d’Or as many times as Cruyff did, but he is only 24. Pep Guardiola is often considered lucky to have him but his nurturing of one of the best footballers ever should not be underestimated. Messi was a fast-paced winger when Guardiola joined the club yet the central role that he now plays in the team was created by his manager.
If Guardiola has added one thing to the ‘Total Football’ brand it is an honest, hardworking ethic. Nobody has ever seen a team with so much talent and ability hunt for the ball like Barcelona have done. Rather than being a tactic for the lesser team, the ability to put the opposing side under a high amount of pressure has been a staple of Guardiola’s success. And once they get the ball, they don’t let go.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in looking at Pep Guardiola’s success with Barcelona. His resignation marks the end of a truly special era at the club and perhaps even in European football.
Who should be in the Hall of Fame?