When Barcelona’s soon-to-be-ex-coach Pep Guardiola related his “waiting for that eureka moment”, as he described his coaching ideology, many in the football world may have thought it pretentious.
The would-be philosopher-coach inspired by flashes of inspiration in search of the necessary tactical strategy to overcome any and every team in Barcelona’s ferocious path.
The imagery is compelling: Guardiola sitting in a dark room, poring over hours of footage until… “tah dah!” Tactics envisioned and then implemented as Barcelona cruised to another victory.
Far-fetched? Pretentious? Not really.
Guardiola has oozed creativity from every pore throughout his playing days as the fulcrum of the Johan Cruyff-inspired Barcelona “Dream Team” in the early 1990’s. His ability to navigate the difficult problems in a congested midfield with the vision and precision of his one-touch passing was, at times, spectacular and certainly avant-garde.
Besides being Cruyff’s right hand and tactical brain on the field, he became the ideal for other midfield greats to emulate. Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Iván de la Peña all paid him their tributes in this regard.
Who would have known that this level of creativity, this level of tactical genius, could make the transition so smoothly into the Coaching arena?
Truth be told, not many before him have.
Other than the Dutch master, Cruyff, who among the footballing greats has set the coaching world alight? Alfredo Di Stefano? Diego Maradona? Ruud Gullitt? Michel Platini? Franz Beckenbauer? All were awe-inspiring in their creativity and tactical nous as players but much less so as coaches.
Beckenbauer did help Germany to the 1990 World Cup title but he never silenced the doubters. As a coach, no standard was raised and no benchmark set; certainly nothing to match his mercurial ability as a player.