I was lucky enough to come across this article by Pep Guardiola, which he wrote shortly before he became manager of the Barcelona first eleven, and while coach of the reserve team.
It is a pleasure for me to be able to share it with you.
On the 2nd March 2007, Pep Guadiola wrote an article in El Pais about FC Barcelona, their style and philosophy of play, before he became first team manager in 2008 – and, of course, not only was he one of the greatest managers ever to play the game, he was also a visionary!
I have translated the article but for those of you who are purists – do see the article in Spanish here: http://elpais.com/diario/2007/03/02/deportes/1172790006_850215.html
Feel it (Sentido)
by Pep Guardiola
In yesterday’s editorial in La Vanguardia, actress Norma Aleandro said that many people are lucky and are not aware of it. I believe that those of us who love Barça (a lot) and football (much more) got lucky long ago. And the best part of all is that we are aware of it—from the hand of a Dutchman and a Catalan.
I’m sorry, Norma.
It appears, according to what they say, that the Dream Team returned in Zaragoza, but I believe that the Dream Team has never left.
“I am drawn to victory and I realize that the road that gets you the closest to it is leadership. Never think about a game without playing on the opponent’s home turf.” A wonderful saying by Marcelo Bielsa that Barcelona made its own for over a decade. In Barcelona it is understood that you can win a thousand ways. All are valid. All work. There’s little more to say. But in Barcelona it is also understood that you can never win and repeat in a way that does not feel right to you—that does not feel right to the directors, coaches, players, friends of the press and the people who go every week to see them.
I think the current Barça players feel this. They feel it because many of them saw their closest predecessors do it. They feel it because you have seen them doing it and winning (much reinforces the belief to win) and since they know how they did it, they are able to do it again. If they did not genuinely feel it, they would win. But one day, they would not be able to keep it up. You cannot go on playing with a four-man defensive line, then to play with a line of three, and I say three, not five, and do it with consistency. And do it well. And win and reach the Copa del Rey semifinals.
I think, and maybe I’m wrong, but what I see is: they like to organize themselves according to the ball—that they attack and defend with the ball and understand that it is unacceptable that the ball is there and we are here. The players feel that, instead of moving towards the ball, the ball will reach them where they are. They feel that, in order for the attackers to succeed and appear in the newspapers, [they] need a good ball from the midfield and they, to do so, need a good ball from their defenders. I will pass it on to you and you pass it to them. Ronaldinho knows that he is better with Eto’o and Eto’o knows he is better with Ronaldinho. They have their aspects, but are better together than alone. They insist on knowing where the free man is at every moment, and know that it is better if that man is Iniesta rather than a winger. They know that Xavi and Iniesta are compatible. And why wouldn’t they be, dammit? They understand, as all good collectives should, that when you start on the right, it is better to finish on the left end and a back pass does not indicate fear, but the beginning of another, better play. They feel that the time will come and that possession itself is nothing, but rather a means to reach the goal. That it is better that the ball reach the extreme end of the pitch via the center rather than from up the sides. And if they play the three little ones (Xavi-Iniesta-Deco) like in Zaragoza, the homegrown players must deal with the control and preparation of the plays, and Deco with the completion. They feel that if we play with three in midfield, three will need the support of Oleguer and Puyol. And they also know they have the best player in the world, or nearly so, and the best striker in the world, or nearly so, and if it comes to knowing how to play football, not decide games, not playing to make plays, I repeat, to know playing football, we have the two best midfielders in the world. But all of these better’s or almost’s, in another setting would be nothing more than better’s and almost’s. They know. Or they feel it.
Or that’s what I believe.
And with all this, sometimes, occasionally, they also lose. They lose through lack of will power, by not getting their shirt sweaty enough. Or because they have recently eaten too much and too well, and they have lost their appetite. Yes, they also lose for these reasons, like all teams around the world. But they also lose because sometimes, Xavi or Iniesta or Deco will steal the ball from the midfielders when perhaps they should not. Or because the ball that starts on the right is on track to finish on the right. Or because the third man is seldom used. Or because Ronaldinho has to receive more passes from Marquez and fewer from Sylvinho … Or because the attack-defense transition, to have it or not have it, was seen and unseen, and now maybe the best is slower. Or because Eto’o is not there anymore. Or I do not know why they lose! But they lose. But they lose not only by not sweating enough, not by not running more and more. They lose for other reasons they are aware of. Some know because they were born here and have thus been raised, others because they have no other remedy but to learn.
Tomorrow Barça will lose. Or after tomorrow. We will all be aware of it. But no one can argue that Barça has been a recognizable team for a long time. Unique.
And they do not know how much I like it.
Hours before the big game against Zaragoza, Iniesta sent a message to my brother. My brother forwarded it. He said: “The Dream Team is back. Game on.” Do they or do they not feel how they must play this wonderful profession that is playing football?
Are there still any who doubt how they will play the game against the Beatles?
Will they pass? Will they go home? Do not doubt the words of Bielsa.