Pep Guardiola’s Barça, one of the most beautiful teams in history —

There are coaches who mark eras, generations, history. Pep Guardiola is one of them, without any possibility of dispute. The Catalan man, now at Manchester City and celebrating his 52nd birthday today, has revolutionized football, even if it means caricatures at times. But the track record speaks for itself. Memories too. His Barca will forever be one of the greatest teams of all time.

2009, a sextuplet for history

Joan Laporta’s choice to appoint young Pep Guardiola as head of FC Barcelona in 2008 to replace Frank Rijkaard could have seemed like madness. Big risk, to say the least. Hailing from Barça B, the Catalan coach started very badly with a defeat at Numancia before being held at Camp Nou by Racing Santander. It has to be said that Guardiola has a lot of pressure on his shoulders, it is he who has decided to part ways with Deco and Ronaldinho.

But time will prove him right. In a team where Sergio Busquets started and Yaya Touré was completely out of action, the attack set up by Henry, Eto’o and Messi did the rest. River has scored in almost every encounter, and in particular the 2-6 scored by Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu for one of the most beautiful pages in FC Barcelona’s history. This will be followed by wins in the King’s Cup, in La Liga and in the Champions League, in Rome, against Manchester United. Led by an extraordinary team, Pep Guardiola became the youngest coach to win the C1. In history will also remain Andrés Iniesta’s last minute goal at Stamford Bridge to give his team qualification against Chelsea.

Guardiola’s Barça won the sextuplet in 2009. (Sports Icon)

But Barça didn’t stop there, as they won everything in 2009. After the three titles mentioned above, Catalan also won the Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup. An unprecedented sextuplet that only Bayern Munich can achieve in 2020.

2011, Guardiola’s most beautiful masterpiece

After winning the Liga title in 2010 with a record points* (99 points), Barça de Guardiola fell short in the Champions League semifinals against Chelsea. But the team thrived and continued to amaze with their flamboyant play, constant pressing and head-turning phases of possession. Tiki taka will reach its peak in the following season, in 2010-2011. FC Barcelona won La Liga again against Real Madrid’s José Mourinho, whom they humiliated at Camp Nou (5-0), before eliminating them in the semifinals of the Champions League. Leo Messi’s slalom too, this Barça miracle.

But while he will last one final season in Catalonia before making way for the late Tito Vilanova, Barça de Guardiola’s best game will be played in the Champions League final on 28 May 2011. Against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, the Catalan club recite football poetry for what it is will forever be one of the most successful matches. A 3-1 victory thanks to goals from Pedro, Messi, Villa and an overwhelming sense of dominance that shocked the world. 66% possession, 12 shots on target against just one for the Mancunians (Rooney goal). “Unplayable”, as Ferguson himself admitted. And to close the show, Carles Puyol held a class to let Eric Abidal, back after a liver tumor, lift a cup with big ears. Unbeatable.

* this record would be beaten by José Mourinho’s Real Madrid during the 2011/2012 season with 100 stitches, then Tito Vilanova with Barça in 2012/2013.

14 titles in four seasons

Washed down, drained, Pep Guardiola left his post as coach of FC Barcelona at the end of the 2011-2012 season, having won the last Spanish Cup for the road. The Catalan would return a few years later to the Bayern Munich bench before taking over Manchester City and continuing to reinvent football. Behind him, Guardiola leaves 14 titles in four seasons. Arriving on tiptoe, he went triumphantly by his players in front of a grateful Camp Nou. The football son of Johan Cruyff, Guardiola took him to a new dimension, so his Barça will remain one of the most beautiful teams in the history of the sport.

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