Martí Perarnau knows Pep Guardiola better than any other Journalist. Having become good friends with the Catalonian during his reign at FC Barceolan, Perarnau is well placed to reveal the founding principles of Guardiola’s success. Accompanying the Bayern-Munich coach for a year, he has studied his methods (book tip: “Pep Confidential”). For The Red Bulletin he analyses, what we can learn from the best football manager in the world: how to be athletic, kind, and fashionable.
5 BE WILLING TO LOVE
When Bayern Munich secured the Bundesliga title in March 2014, Ribery went up to his manager during the celebrations and said to him, ‘I love you! You’re in my heart.’
In the first match of the 2014/15 season, Bayern had plenty of problems: important players were out through injury, and the players from the German national team, who had only just got back to Munich after their successful World Cup campaign, had hardly trained. It was a tough game, but Pep demanded the highest level of commitment from his players. Bayern won, and after the game Pep and Philipp Lahm hugged in a show of boundless joy. “Philipp, I love you! Thank you for your great performance”, he said to his captain.
For Pep, this level of emotion is nothing to do with management culture or quality of leadership. It really is about love for his players, and he is by their sides through thick and thin.
When the young Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg confided that
his father had cancer, he and Pep cried together. The coach did everything he could to support the player and his father, who died a few months later. Hojbjerg once told me, ‘Pep is like a second father to me.’
“Later, Hojbjerg revolted. He wanted to be played more often and demanded a regular place in the team, but Pep didn’t grant him one. Hojbjerg was behaving like a rebellious 19-year-old son. He asked to be loaned to FC Augsburg. Pep behaved like a father who only wanted the best for his child; he let him go, but made him promise to come back.”
6 QUESTION EVERYTHING
Pep never stops asking questions – directed not only at others but at himself. His questions can get on people’s nerves. And sometimes he changes his mind overnight. Not because he doesn’t know what to do, but because he likes to get an overview of every aspect and eventuality that might occur during a game.
We learn from Pep that success comes about much more from doubts than it does from certainties.
7 NEVER FEEL SATISFIED
At three o’clock one morning, Pep was sitting in a corner with his little daughter lying half asleep in his arms. Bayern had just recorded a big win over Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup Final. But Guardiola wasn’t satisfied. ‘We didn’t play as well as we could have,’ he said.
Pep normally allows himself five minutes to celebrate a victory. That’s five minutes, no more. After that, it’s all about a cool analysis of the game with the colleagues he’s closest to, and then he’ll prepare for the next match.
Guardiola is never satisfied. Doesn’t he like winning? Of course he does; he loves winning. But one demand he makes of himself is to find the perfect play. He knows it’ll never happen, but he’ll keep trying. The result is important, of course, but he’s more interested in how it came about. After all, sometimes a result can be deceptive. For Pep, it’s more important to analyse the dynamics of the game, because only then will it be possible to ensure future success.
8 BE VULNERABLE
Pep hates losing, even though he knows that he has to be able to live with defeats.
He’s not a hard man, and he doesn’t mind admitting it or showing it. If he’s worried about something, he scratches his head. If he’s satisfied with a training session, he shouts out loud, applauds, and kisses people. If he’s dissatisfied, he goes off and sits in a corner. He gives his emotions free rein. He’s convinced that you have to react in a sanguine manner when you lose, and remain level-headed when you win.
But he’s not some superhero, just a normal guy who doesn’t mind crying in front of his players when he is overcome with emotion, or guffawing like a big kid when Thomas Muller cracks one of his jokes.
9 DRESS APPROPRIATELY
Before training, Pep slips into a tracksuit that his assistants have laid out for him; if it’s cold weather, he pulls something over his head. Day-to-day, he’s not all that bothered about his get-up. But that changes when it comes to the magic of game day. Then he pays attention to his appearance and dresses appropriately. It isn’t about vanity; it’s about respect.
In Pep’s view, the game itself is the high point of the profession and one should dress for it as one would dress for a celebration. The way he dresses makes clear to his players just how highly he values the game. Today is game day, the day of ceremony. Today, we have to show off everything that we’ve worked hard for.