Pep Guardiola has managed the world’s very best footballers in the world.
The Manchester City boss, who is now 50 years old, stepped into management 12 years ago and is still regarded as one of the best coaches in world football.
Success has followed wherever Guardiola has beenAFP or licensors
It all began in Barcelona, where Pep revolutionised the game with his ‘Tiki-Taka’ philosophy as his all-conquering side etched their name as one of the greatest teams to play the beautiful game.
He then 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.
Pep’s success knows no bounds, but he owes a lot of his achievements to some of the extraordinary talents he has had the pleasure of coaching.
As the great tactician turns 50, we at talkSPORT.com have drawn up our best XI of players he has managed…
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
A true goalkeeping great, Neuer flourished for Guardiola at Bayern Munich, winning three Bundesliga titles, the DFB-Pokal, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
Victor Valdes can count himself unlucky not to make the XI, however, as he was also an ever-present in Pep’s Barcelona side that reinvented the beautiful game for four years from 2008.
Neuer is one of the greatest goalkeepers ever and blossomed under PepGetty Images – Getty
Defence: Dani Alves, Vincent Kompany, Gerard Pique, David Alaba
Veteran Brazilian defender Alves, officially the most decorated player in history, is a must in the XI given his role in the Barca side which won 14 trophies in four years.
He was Pep’s third most used playe at the Camp Nou, featuring 208 times and racking up a return of 15 goals and 67 assists.
Captain fantastic Kompany also earns a place for his brilliant leadership in the three years at City.
He was instrumental for City in Guardiola’s two Premier League title victories, with that memorable winner against Leicester in 2019 one of the most iconic in the division’s history.
Vincent Kompany is a Manchester City legend and one of the Premier League’s greatest ever captainsGetty Images – Getty
Partnering him in central defence was the imperious Pique, who rejoined Barca from Manchester United in 2008 and went on to win the treble in his first season under Guardiola and much more silverware thereafter.
Carles Puyol can count himself unlucky not to make the XI, but his prime years arguably came before Pep arrived.
Completing the back four is current Bayern Munich star Alaba, who featured in 124 of Guardiola’s 161 games in charge at the Allianz Arena, bagging 11 goals and assisting 12 more.
The Austrian formed a devastating partnership with Franck Ribery on the left flank which saw three consecutive titles arrive at the Allianz Arena.
Midfield: Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Kevin De Bruyne
Guardiola acknowledges the wealth of talent he has worked with makes it hard to pick a starting XI, but Kevin De Bruyne would be there.
“I was a lucky person being in Barcelona, Bayern Munich and here, I train incredible players,” he told mancity.com.
“But if you ask who is best keeper, I could not answer you because it wouldn’t be respectful for another ‘keeper if I choose Victor Valdes, [Manuel] Neuer, or Eddie with what he is doing right now – I could not say.
“But Kevin of course. It’s not necessary to be a smart guy, a wise guy – every person in world football knows Kevin will be there.”
When it comes to holding midfielders, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso and Fernandinho have been superb, however, Busquets was the best in the world under Guardiola in his years at Camp Nou.
His role in expertly breaking up opposition attacks was pivotal to Barca’s style of play and they wouldn’t have been as successful as they were without him and this is without mentioning Xavi or Andres Iniesta.
De Bruyne is arguably the Premier League’s best player on top formAFP
Like those two in Spain, De Bruyne has been integral to City’s rise to the pinnacle of English football, featuring 243 times for City with a sensational return of 60 goals and 103 assists.
Attack: Andres Iniesta, Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi
With Xavi and De Bruyne in front of Busquets, Iniesta, therefore, earns a spot on the flanks.
The Spaniard spent a fair chunk of his time out wide at Camp Nou and was still world class in that position.
He produced a return of 23 goals and 53 assists in his 81 appearances at Barcelona under Guardiola, finishing in the top three of the Ballon d’Or awards thrice during this period.
Arguably the greatest to ever play the game, Messi is the first name on the team sheet, but is used on the right flank in this XI rather than in the false nine role that he adopted under Guardiola.
Messi and Guardiola won everything together at BarcelonaAFP – Getty
Messi, who has scored a remarkable 640 goals in 741 matches for the Catalans, was in his prime under Guardiola and regularly says he was the best manager he has worked with.
In 2012, he hit unprecedented heights with 91 goals in a calendar year: 79 with Barça (59 in La Liga, 13 in the Champions League, 5 in the Copa del Rey and 2 in the Spanish Super Cup).
Thierry Henry and Sergio Aguero may well feel hard done by, however, only one no.9 can be chosen and current Bayern ace Lewandowski has to get the nod up front in the XI.
The Pole, who was unfortunate not to win the Ballon d’Or in the COVID-hit 2020, was sensational for Guardiola in Germany, hitting 110 league goals in three Bundesliga seasons whilst the Spaniard was at the helm of Bayern Munich.
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