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Pep Guardiola and FC Barcelona: A Match Made in Heaven

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Two and a half years ago, a young (37-year-old) Pep Guardiola was appointed as the new Barcelona manager. Barcelona had been trophy-less for two seasons, and the motivation levels were at their lowest.

Guardiola's appointment seemed too risky a bet, and the general opinion was that, under such an unexperienced manager, Barcelona's trophy drought would continue and Real Madrid would three-peat easily.

To make Guardiola's job even harder, Ronaldinho and Deco, two of the club's stars, left and no direct replacements were brought.

The doubters seemed to be right as Guardiola's team lost their match of the season to a Numancia side that would end up being relegated.

The rest, as they say, is history.

After a slow start, Barcelona started winning and scoring freely, playing some of the most beautiful football the world has ever seen. By the end of the first half of league play, Barcelona had a record 50 points out of 57, with 59 goals scored in only 19 matches, trouncing such worthy sides as Valencia, Sevilla and Real Madrid on the way.

The blaugrana were widely recognized as the most entertaining side on the planet. Under Guardiola, they were playing better than ever, but was Guardiola just a poser? Was he one of those coaches, who, despite their attractive football philosophy couldn't lead his teams to major silverware?

Quite the contrary.

As the season progressed, Barcelona got better and better as Guardiola steadily perfected his Dream Team. In one of the best days in Barcelona's history, the Guardiola juggernaut won 6-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu and put an end to the title race.

The critics were silenced once again and many were forced to recognize Guardiola's excellence. Some detractors said that "anyone could win with a squad like that", a squad that had actually finished third in the previous league under Frank Rijkaard.

A month later, Barcelona became the first Spanish team ever to win the treble, by winning the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League final against Manchester United.

Still, no big deal—according to the critics. They said anyone could have won the treble with that squad, and it's not like it had never been done before.

Come December 2009, Guardiola made even more history by leading Barcelona to an unprecedented sextuple (six trophies in the same year). Never had it been done before by any club! At this point, only jealous, bitter rivals supporters dared deny Guardiola's brilliance.

In his first year as a manager, Pep won the sextuple. But the most impressive part is that he did it by always sticking to his football philosophy and principles.

Even against teams that just parked the bus, Guardiola didn't change a thing in his approach to the match, and he was rightfully rewarded. When Iniesta scored at the last minute at Stamford Bridge, many neutrals all over the world celebrated as if it were their own team.

Beautiful football! Pep's brand of football had triumphed!

Some managers do the same (always keep faithful to their philosophy and principles), but Pep has the trophies to back it up. In one year, he turned an unmotivated squad into one of the best club teams ever to grace the football pitch.

He took the best out of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, among others, and launched youngsters like Piqué, Pedro and Sergio Busquets. In one year, the younger three went from total unknowns to the majority of the football world—except Piqué—to undisputed starters for the Spanish team that won the World Cup.

His first season couldn't have been more successful. He won trophies (Champions League) that managers like Arsène Wenger have been pursuing for 30 years (and failing).

The world was at Pep's feet.

If one sextuple is a great achievement, two in a row is almost impossible, but Pep accepted the challenge.

In La Liga, Barcelona won again, with a record of 99 points (only 15 points lost), winning both El Classicos once again.

In the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League, however, luck wasn't on Guardiola's side this time. Barcelona was knocked out in both competitions by only one goal. In the Champions League, some very dubious referee calls kept Barcelona from reaching the final again.

Still, it must be considered a very good season. A new treble would just be asking too much and it was not that far away.

Overall, Guardiola has been involved in ten competitions as a manager, winning eight (!) of them, and losing the other two by a single goal! He has always stuck to his principles, but he's constantly been re-inventing the team in order to make it even more difficult for the opponents to stop them.

The football brand is always the same, still opponents don't seem to find a way to counter it.

Now in his third season, Pep is facing his biggest challenge ever.

Three-peating is always difficult, but it becomes even more difficult when the opponent is Real Madrid and José Mourinho, who is considered by many as the current best manager in the world.

But Guardiola is showing that no challenge is too big for him. Having won 20 of their 22 league matches, and trounced Real Madrid 5-0 at Camp Nou, Barcelona already have a seven point advantage at the top.

Should Guardiola win the league again, he can legitimately lay claim to being the best manager in the world.

But he won't.

Despite all the trophies he's won, he's still the same humble, self-effacing man he was two years ago. There's always a kind word from Guardiola to the opponents and their managers.

Even in the aftermath of the Altetico Madrid match earlier this season, there were no bitter words towards Ujfalusi, no suggestions that he should never be allowed to play again (unlike some other managers). After the shocking defeat to Hercules in September, Pep took all the blame for the result and complimented his players.

He also hailed José Mourinho as the best manager in the world, and admitted that he would learn a lot and become a better manager with the Portuguese man in La Liga.

Besides his competence, his class (shown everytime he speaks publicly) makes Guardiola the greatest manager Barcelona could possibly have.

Pep Guardiola and Barcelona are indeed a match made in heaven. Barcelona supporters have every reason to believe that, under Pep, more trophies will be coming soon. Another treble is difficult, but seems achievable, given the fantastic form Barcelona have been displaying all throughout the season!

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