Following the announcement of Pep Guardiola’s departure at the end of this season, former totalBarça writer Rasmi picked up his pen once again and sent the following opinion piece our way. We hope you enjoy it.
This article I’m writing will most probably be one amongst many articles, news stories, and videos dedicated to Josep Guardiola, FC Barcelona’s coach, all of which have been reiterating the legacy of one of the best coaches in the history of not only FC Barcelona but in world football as well. ‘Grácies Pep’, or thank you Pep, has as well been a trending topic throughout the social media networks: a ‘thanks Pep’ for all the titles won by FC Barcelona during the past four years, the football spectacle the team has shown (an amalgamation of mesmerizing football, technique, talent, passion and fervor to provide not only the best contemporary football, but also one of the best football playing styles in the history of the game), the dedication to the game, as well as humbleness before the ball and, above all, the spirit of a football team which, with a magical spark, crossed the world and attracted many fans who might have not known anything about football, but were smitten game after game in awe at the play FC Barcelona showed.
What strikes me, beside all the wonderful thank-yous and compliments one can shower both Pep Guardiola and his team with, is that what we have witnessed during the past three years – and are still seeing this year as well – is an everlasting football legacy which will be imprinted in world football history. It might sound simple at first, even silly, but I can’t stop having goosebumps every time I think about the idea. I might not have been able to see the greatest football players play, the likes of Pele, Di Stefano, Socrates, Cruyff and Maradona, nor have I witnessed the great teams play: the Real Madrid of Di Stefano, the Holland, Ajax and Barcelona of Cruyff, the Brazil of the 1982 World Cup, but yes I have seen the ‘Pep Team’ play – a team that will be made eternal with the passing of time. Guardiola’s mark has already been left on the world of football. He need not coach any other team in order to prove himself as a coach, nor repeat the same achievements he has already reaped. What has happened, and which some might not have become aware of – is that Guardiola has created a new era. One that, after it has passed, will be divided by the distinction between football before Guardiola’s Barça and after Guardiola’s Barça.
It’s yet another era of the perfect coach and the perfect player meeting in the perfect team at the perfect time. By that I mean Guardiola, Messi, and FC Barcelona. The overall outcome was an effulgent, exploding, sparked performance of a team that couldn’t stop winning season after season, culminating with raised titles at the end of each of these seasons. It’s not only about the titles won, it is, nevertheless, about the attitude and the play exhibited game after game, of players, the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, wonderfully passing the ball around, leaving the spectators dazzled at the wonders they could do with the ball.
Pep’s decision to leave FC Barcelona has to do with the spark, the goblet of fire he used to ignite the players with so that they could go out on the field like gladiators of the Coliseum, prepared to give an unforgettable football exhibition. “Time wears out everything” were Guardiola’s words as he justified his stepping aside. There was something that had become noticeable during this season; injuries and terrible circumstances that surrounded the team aside, it could be seen this year during certain games, the loss of the spark the team had during other seasons, due to Guardiola’s ‘wearing out’. He can no longer contribute or provide the team with the magical touch that made them dance all harmoniously on the field; but that’s why the Guardiola era, up until now, can be rendered unrepeatable, because what differentiates him from other successful managers/coaches is not only the dedication, but the unexplainable ‘Guardiolaian’ touch which
is able to convert a perfect team into yet an impeccable one with a tinge of a collective genius. It is a kind of a moment of clairvoyance, like that in which one disposes himself to write intensely and by the time one finishes the book, the author is so exhausted that he can’t write anymore. But the masterpiece would be there, and will continue to exist. Guardiola has written his masterpiece, during a period of four years, and now, as he writes down the last character of the score, play or novel, it will have been finished and left to posterity to enjoy. But, what strikes me, as I said before, is that I keep thinking to myself: I have been witness to the making of this masterpiece. It’s great to watch videos of the greatest players, but it’s priceless to know one was there to experience the rise of one of the best coaches in history, the author of the fabled ‘Pep Team’.
And now that Guardiola will leave the team, this will be a turning point, as things will never be the same. Now a whole new set of standards have been laid down, which have made so many other football teams take the FC Barcelona model as an example to imitate. The ‘beautiful game’ is and will be in a process of evolution after all that Guardiola has provided since he was appointed to coach the blaugrana. What he will be doing next or whether he will be able to succeed with other teams or not can only be known as time passes by. What I can be sure of is that as a fan of football, spectacle and the beautiful game, as well as being a culé, is that an unknown coach appointed to steer the FC Barcelona ship in 2008 was able to convert this ship as well as himself into a mythical figure by 2012, thereby making FC Barcelona a reference for world football; and I am grateful to have been a witness of this historical event. But in the future, when all I am left with are the great memories of the unforgettable four years of Guardiola as FC Barcelona’s coach, intensely and passionately lived during the moments of sadness and joy, defeat and victory, I can still contently say: I saw the ‘Pep Team’ play….‘Grácies Pep’….
Image Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images