Barcelona follows Pep Guardiola around. Success there has defined him as a manager and the comparisons between them and this Manchester City team are never far away.
He has consistently deflected from those in the recent past, citing City have not won any silverware yet, but there came a perfect moment to address it inside the Old Trafford tunnel.
‘We can play this way in England,’ a giddy Guardiola said after beating Manchester United. ‘People said we couldn’t play the way we did in Barcelona in England but it is possible and we did it.’
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is turning the Premier League club into Barcelona
The Catalan boss continues to be defined by the success he enjoyed while at the Nou Camp
‘People said we couldn’t play the way we did in Barcelona in England but it is possible,’ he said
HOW MAN CITY ARE BECOMING THE BARCELONA OF ENGLAND
‘People said we couldn’t play the way we did in Barcelona in England but it is possible and we did it.’ Since moving to the Premier League, Guardiola has instilled the playing principles he adapted from Dutch pioneer Johann Cruyff.
City dominate the ball and press relentlessly like Barcelona, while their use of full backs in midfield is a tactic the Catalan developed while at Bayern Munich.
It’s not only Guardiola whose journey to Manchester began in earnest in Barcelona. Assistant coaches Domenec Torrent and Rodolfo Borrell worked with him at the Nou Camp, as did fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura, dietitian Silvia Tremoleda and head of performance analysis Carles Planchart.
Even Mikel Arteta, who had no previous coaching experience before joining Pep’s backroom staff, begun his professional playing career at the Nou Camp.
From zonal marking to keeping the ball, English football’s tendency to be slow on the uptake of ‘foreign’ footballing ideas has been a feature of recent years. But at City, the club structure is one forged in Catalonia.
They have a director of football in Txiki Begiristain, who oversees player recuitment and was technical director at the Nou Camp before he was recruited in 2012, while chief executive Ferran Soriano was general manager at Barcelona before moving to England.
The record 14th consecutive Premier League win in a single season meant more to him than imagined and acted as a shot to the naysayers. It represented validation for not conforming.
Barcelona, the trophies and the way in which they were won, will continue to linger for his remaining time in England. To expect anything else is unreasonable. But the symmetry lies with Guardiola’s fundamentals, not the institution with which he made his name.
The Catalan adapted ideas from Johann Cryuff, made them his own, and has further tinkered with them at Bayern Munich and now City. They are not a carbon copy of Barcelona even if the principals are similar.
Death by a thousand passes still exists, of course, and City are actually completing more than in all but one of his seasons as a manager. The constant pressing remains, too, but the full backs moving into midfield and wingers operating on their traditional wings are more Bayern Munich than Barca.
Guardiola delivers instructions to a young Lionel Messi during his tenure at the Catalan club
The former Spain and Barcelona midfielder shows off his skills during a training session
Guardiola celebrates their win at Manchester United with City and England starlet Phil Foden
They are happy to go longer, with goalkeeper Ederson regularly picking out team-mates over the halfway line and Kevin De Bruyne switching play with lofted balls.
Guardiola continues to evolve but crucially knows what works for him. Assistant manager Domenec Torrent has been alongside the 46-year-old since taking over at Barcelona B, with coach Rodolfo Borrell having experienced the Nou Camp as well.
Fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura is a Barca alumni, recruited by Guardiola in 2008, with head of performance analysis Carles Planchart having worked there as well. First-team manager Marc Boixasa has previously held a position at City’s sister club, Girona.
In the boardroom, too, the City ship is steered by two former Barcelona admirals. Txiki Begiristain was technical director at the Nou Camp before he was recruited by the Premier League club in 2012 as part of a management restructure.
He now oversees player recruitment as director of football and works below chief executive Ferran Soriano, who was general manager at Barcelona before moving to England.
Domenec Torrent (second left) and fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura (R) are Barca alumni
Rodolfo Borrell (right) is another of Guardiola’s henchmen who has experienced the Nou Camp
Guardiola insists his backroom staff, even Brian Kidd, wear matching outfits for away trips
Even the choice of signing a partnership with fashion label Dsquared2 has Guardiola’s stamp on it. The manager is close friends with the owners, Dean and Dan Caten, having worn their clothes at previous clubs. For him, the best facets of his time elsewhere are sprinkled across City.
Buenaventura – credited with revolutionising Barcelona’s fitness levels – starts training, gradually warming Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Co up. He’s close with Mikel Arteta, the pair often sharing lifts to the City Football Academy.
Boxes are prevalent, where two players chase a ball being moved between five or six team-mates, with all of Guardiola’s staff – the number over 20 – watching on close by.
Silvia Tremoleda’s influence is key too. The dietitian – also formerly of Barcelona and who Lionel Messi counts as a help in his early career – devises the meals which City’s squad eat together at breakfast and lunch in the week. They are also round the table after matches in the newly-refurbished main stand at the Etihad Stadium. They are a tight group, knitted together by Manel Estiarte.
Silvia Tremoleda devises the meals players eat while training at the Etihad Campus in midweek
Manel Estiarte, pictured here with Guardiola at Bayern Munich, knits together the tight group
Estiarte is Guardiola’s sidekick in the shadows and City pay him a wage, whereas Bayern Munich and Barcelona did not, handing him the grand title of ‘head of player support and protocol’, with Spaniard David Quintana – a friend of David Silva’s – working underneath him.
Estiarte, the eyes and ears of the backroom team (particularly regarding foreign media coverage) serves to facilitate the every need of players and is widely respected. City stars love him and Pablo Zabaleta was spotted warmly embracing the 55-year-old before the friendly against West Ham in Reykjavik in August.
He makes his way from the stands to the touchline for the final minutes of matches and can often be seen in the thick of celebrations. When City deliver trophies, he will be a key reason behind it. Guardiola has new tricks, and is a different man to the one who led world football from Catalonia, but his old dogs are still helping him achieve.
MAN CITY’S SPANISH ARMADA
Pep Guardiola (Manager) – Made his name as one of the world’s leading coaches at Barcelona before moving to City via Bayern Munich
Domenec Torrent (Assistant coach) – Has worked with Guardiola since he started his tenure Barcelona B and is one of his most trusted lieutenants
Mikel Arteta (Assistant coach) – Begun his professional career at Barcelona before spending 11 years in the Premier League
Rodolfo Borrell (Assistant coach) – Developed the likes of Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas while at Barcelona. Left coaching role at Liverpool to join City
Carles Planchart (Head of performance anaylsis) – Ex-Barca man charged with analysing opposition teams and developing plans on how to beat them
Marc Boixasa (First-team manager) Previously held a position at City’s sister club, Girona.
Lorenzo Buenaventura (Fitness coach) – Recruited by Guardiola in 2008 and is credited with revolutionising Barcelona’s fitness levels.
Xabier Mancisidor (Goalkeeping coach) – Worked with former City coach Manuel Pellegrini at both Real Madrid and Malaga before coming to England
Silvia Tremoleda (Dietitian) – Formerly at Barcelona, she devises the meals which City’s squad eat together at breakfast and lunch in the week
Manel Estiarte (Head of player support and protocol) – With David Quintana, he’s the eyes and ears of the backroom team and facilitates player’s needs
Txiki Begiristain (Director of football) – Ex-Barca technical director, joined City in 2012 as part of a management restructure. Oversees player recruitment
Ferran Soriano (Chief executive) – Former Barcelona general manager who joined City in 2012 . Also CEO of New York City and Melbourne City