This article is part of a partnership with Grup 14, an organization dedicated to Futbol Club Barcelona and supporters around the world. The Pep Episodes is created by Alex Truica and originally published at Grup14.com.
Finally, he broke his silence. On Tuesday, before Bayern’s training camp trip to Qatar, Pep Guardiola spoke to the German media and admitted to what has been made public since late December, when the club released a statement that Guardiola won’t renew his contract.
“I want to experience a new city and I want to work in England,” he said. Guardiola was honest to the press, some might say for the first time in a long while. “I have an opportunity to work in England. I’m at the right age and I feel it is the right move for me. That is the reason I have taken this decision,” the Catalan explained. He again lauded the Bavarian club, spoke about how happy he is at Bayern, how proud he is to manage them and so on. Platitudes we all have heard for two-and-a-half years. Recurring, even tiring statements.
The notable thing was that Guardiola seemed to feel free as a bird this time during his presser. He was relieved, liberated. A pressure was clearly off his chest. And he even admitted that: “I am free.” Guardiola needs his freedom to be at his best, to be the creative, genius manager he can be, to be the most craved manager in the business, the coach every team wants to hire, even Real Madrid, as ARA journalist Isaac Lluch revealed in an exclusive interview with Grup 14.
In retrospect, Guardiola took his freedom several times already, as Süddeutsche Zeitung rightly pointed out. For example when he got rid of the stars Samuel Eto’o, Deco and Ronaldinho at Barça and started a rebuilding phase at the Blaugrana. There was a tactical freedom, when he introduced Lionel Messi as false 9 and changed world football. As we all know, Barça dominated European football and won every possible trophy after that, Messi became the best player in the history of football, breaking record after record.
Or when Guardiola quit Barça to do a sabbatical in New York, where he recharged his batteries after being exhausted from four very intense years on the sideline in Barcelona.
After he took the job at Bayern, it was again a tactical freedom he took: He shifted one of the world’s best right backs, Philipp Lahm, to central midfield, because of Lahm’s football IQ. Freedom of mind gives him the energy to implement his ideas, to work his magic.
If he doesn’t feel that way, he can’t be as successful as he’s used to being. For example when, in the Champions League return leg of the semifinal against Real Madrid, he gave up his footballing credo and didn’t play the way he wanted but the way the team and media persuaded him to do. He played an overly attack-minded football and betrayed his idea of dominating midfield – and lost the game 0-4 in the Allianz Arena. Still his biggest defeat.
At the beginning of this season, he felt surrounded, attacked, penned in – when all the media could talk about was his contract renewal and when he would finally make up his mind about his stay in Munich. Guardiola was uncharacteristically irritated and upset, as illustrated after the loss in the Super Cup against Wolfsburg.
This time, on Tuesday, he was relaxed again, happy. He spoke about “a new challenge”, about experiencing new things. The Premier League is his next destination, because he wants to experience “the atmosphere, stadiums, emotions” there. “I don’t want to retire without that experience in England.” When he feels free, Guardiola is at his best. That’s good news for Bayern and the remainder of their campaign, but not so much for other teams in Bundesliga and the Champions League.
The Pep Episodes is a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich exclusively written for Grup14 by Alex Truica, a freelance sports journalist and editor. You can follow him on Twitter.