Pep Guardiola is about to turn 50, but the great tactician has no plans to call it a day soon.
Ten years ago, the Manchester City manager already had two Champions League titles to his name as his all-conquering Barcelona side etched their name as one of the greatest teams to play the beautiful game.
Guardiola is indisputably one of the world’s greatest coaches
A decade and two clubs later, the Spaniard is still regarded as one of the very best coaches in world football.
“Experience helps you in this job, especially the way I live my profession,” Guardiola said when quizzed on his future earlier this month. “Before I thought I am going to retire soon and maybe now I am thinking I am going to retire older. Fifty already is a nice age.”
After revolutionising the game in Barcelona with his ‘tiki-taka’ philosophy and winning trophies galore, Pep moved to Germany where he led Bayern Munich to three Bundesliga titles on the bounce, with silverware also coming via the DFB-Pokal, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
A move to Manchester City followed in 2016 and yet more silverware has gone his way in England.
He has won two Premier League titles, three League Cups and the FA Cup during his tenure at the Etihad, but the Champions League has been the one trophy to elude him.
Guardiola’s success knows no bounds and here, talkSPORT.com has taken a look at what his friends, foes, coaches and distant admirers have said about him as he reaches 50…
The Argentine was at the peak of his powers under Guardiola at Barcelona and won all there is to win in club football under his stewardship.
He scored a record-breaking 91 goals (yes 91) in a single calendar year under his guidance – and Messi has frequently said Guardiola was the best coach he has had.
Last month he remained coy over whether they could reunite in the future, saying: “We don’t talk about whether we are going to meet again. For me Pep is the best, he has something special.”
Messi and Guardiola won everything together at BarcelonaAFP – Getty
The veteran Brazilian, who has won more than any other player in history, famously played under Guardiola at Barcelona and almost joined him at Manchester City too, and he loved every moment with his ex-coach.
“I think Pep is a genius,” he said in one interview.
“A genius that football gave us as a gift, as a coach, as a person. How he got the best out of every player – those that played a lot, those that didn’t play as much – creating a synergy with a lot of respect between those inside the team.
“That puts him in a very special position in my life and a very particular position. I think he’s a nonconformist genius, a methodical genius, a perfectionist genius and I think that makes him unique.
“Wherever he goes, he can win more or he can win less, but I think a player that works with him will never be the same. Every day is a learning [curve], it’s a class like you were going to college. It’s a discipline because you learn something more.”
Meanwhile, in another interview, he added: “To work with him, is better than sex.”
Guardiola brilliantly responded by saying he ‘prefers the sex… by far’.
Alves loved working with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona
Guardiola led Bayern to three consecutive titles at the Allianz Arena and former Germany captain Lahm played an instrumental role in that success.
“He is an incredible coach on a completely different level in terms of tactics,” he said. “He really helps players develop and he even helped me improve at the age of 30.
“With Pep it’s more than just about winning trophies. You’re always measured by the number of trophies but he developed a lot of players with the way he thinks about tactics, the way he analyses games and prepares teams for particular opponents.”
The Liverpool midfielder couldn’t hide his disappointment that his compatriot left for Man City in 2016.
He said: “We all wanted Guardiola to remain. He is the best coach I’ve ever worked with.”
Thiago loved his time with Guardiola
Another player who blossomed under Guardiola at Barcelona, Xavi believes his former boss’ tactical nous is unrivalled in the game.
He said: “He doesn’t give himself a minute’s rest. He’s pig-headed, football is his everything and he puts so much intensity into everything. Pep’s almost got a sickness for football.”
Xavi is seen as the heir to Guardiola in Spain
The Manchester United icon, who was defeated by Guardiola’s Barcelona in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, is keen to see the Spaniard take charge of England’s national team one day.
He said: “I hope he becomes England coach one day and brings us his style. He can still succeed in England. He could improve in defence because at every ground you come under pressure, but everyone in England loves the way his teams play.”
The Chelsea boss defeated Guardiola’s incredible Barcelona side as a player in a 2012 Champions League semi-final but the Blues icon admitted the style of play he has brought to football had not been seen before.
He said: “What I like about Guardiola is that he had some incredible players at Barcelona who were already there and that he went to Bayern Munich to train in the best team in the league, but when he arrived here, City was not the best team and now he’s very ahead of the others and playing in a way that we had never seen before.”
Lampard and Guardiola now boast a managerial rivalry in the Premier Leaguegetty
Sir Alex Ferguson
Arguably football’s greatest manager of all time says Guardiola’s personality is what stands him aside other coaches in the game.
“One thing I have noticed about Guardiola – crucial to his immense success as a manager – is that he has been very humble,” Sir Alex said.
“He has never tried to gloat, he has been very respectful and that is very important. As a coach he is very disciplined in terms of how his team plays, whether they win or lose he is always the unpretentious individual. And to be honest, I think it is good to have someone like that in this profession.”
Ferguson praised ‘humble’ Guardiola
The late great Argentine predicted Guardiola to have a brilliant career in his early days as a manager.
He said: “Pep is an excellent man. I know Guardiola very well, but maybe he does not get as much merit because he has impressive players. Let’s not forget though that he is very young and has a great career ahead of him.”
The Arsenal legend spent two years with Guardiola from 2008-2010 and has frequently spoken of his desire to implement a similar style to his former manager as he coaches Canadian club Montreal Impact.
“There is one thing you can be sure of – he wants to dominate,” the Frenchman said. “People associate his teams with the number of goals they score but his teams also don’t concede a lot. He always wants to be on the front foot, having the ball, possession, and he wants to dominate.”
Guardiola was Henry’s manager at Barcelona for two years
Real Madrid boss Zidane is making his own name as an incredible manager, but he has dismissed comparisons to Guardiola in the past.
He said: “You shouldn’t make comparisons with me and Guardiola. He has achieved incredible things. Guardiola is a fantastic coach and what he is doing is very impressive.”
A true great for Barcelona and Spain, Iniesta relished Guardiola’s ability to find the answer to any problem that’s thrown to his side in a football match.
“He gives you so many solutions for when you are then in the middle of a game, and nearly all of them turn out to be the right solutions when you apply them.”