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Non-negotiables with Pep Guardiola - "Being at a club is a big opportunity to open your mind"
We sat down with the Manchester City to discuss the ideas that have defined his approach to managing the Premier League champions.
It is not an overstatement to say that Pep Guardiola has revolutionised English football since his arrival at Manchester City in 2016.
The former Barcelona midfielder had already enjoyed incredible levels of success as a manager both at the Nou Camp and at Bayern Munich, with his tiki-taka style of play and ability to massively improve individuals earning him plaudits - and trophies - galore.
However, arguably his greatest body of work has come at the Etihad, where the 51-year-old has won four Premier League titles already, along with four EFL Cups, two Community Shields and one FA Cup.
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The Champions League remains the only major trophy to have eluded him at City, but the latest version of his team could be his best ever, containing two of the best young players in the world in the form of homegrown marvel Phil Foden and Norwegian scoring sensation Erling Haaland.
In this interview, Guardiola reveals the most important trait his team should possess, the importance of identity and cultural tolerance - and what drives him to keep striving for titles in what is his seventh season in his current job.
Do you bring the same approach to each season, to each game, to each club?
Yeah. I still take everyone seriously. [I have] incredible respect for opponents in every competition we have to face and yeah, I have an incredible backroom staff to help me with many things that I cannot do myself, because the day is just 24 hours, you don’t have more.
When it comes to opposition analysis, is that something you do on your own or do you have to watch with other people who can then give you information to add – how does that work?
They give me information. When I don’t know [a team like] Copenhagen, I always want to take a look because the view, a few things… every person has a different perspective and [if] we can share as much information [as possible] after watching the team, it’s really good.
When I see the team, I try to figure out, to realise the best of them to not be surprised when we start the game and say: “Oh god, they are good.” If at the end we are better, OK, [the gameplan is] correct.
What are the rules that Pep Guardiola brings to any club?
I’m not a big fan of… For example, when we arrive in the first season, maybe to know each other I had to put in a little bit more rules, but for example the last two, three seasons, they decide absolutely the rules they want to do, the way we want to live a little bit.
As [long] as we respect each other [and] we talk positively about our relationship, the rest is not important. I don’t accept any other circumstances where we are living [together for] 11 months, not respecting each other or the behaviours are not like a human being deserves.
The other one is football – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. This is the least important thing.
We do our job, do our best, today better than yesterday and hopefully tomorrow much better than today. This is the only secret. Respect the opponents, no excuses, we have holding midfielders, we try to do our best. That’s all.
If it works, [if] it doesn’t work, learn from the defeat, improve for the next game. There are no more secrets than that since day one of my career.
We hear from other clubs about which language to speak in the restaurant, the fines for lateness, all those little things that we hear to try and understand how a team works together. Is the only rule for you: we know each other and we’re together?
[For] the rules, we have a captain. They decide what they want to do. If there are two Brazilians sitting together, it’s normal. They can speak in their own language and for the English people, they can learn another language. So being [at] a club today is a big opportunity to open your mind, to know other languages, so it’s good for everyone in that sense.
In that sense, do you think English football has looked outwardly more than when you first got here?
When we arrived it was quite international, I would say. Today, the world is not defined by borders, it's about learning from people of other nationalities to take the best [of them] without losing who you are as a country, as a people.
So identity is so important to be proud [of] where you are born, but at the same time, be open for other opportunities, for other people. I didn’t decide where I was born. My mum and dad decide where I was born. I didn’t do anything for this.
Where does that hunger and will to win come from, inside you? Why do you still need that drive?
[It comes from] people take care of me at this club. They take care of me really well.
I feel at home. I felt it when I arrived in day one and I feel it and still I’m happy to be here. You know when you are comfortable working, living in the city, so you try to do your best.
At the end you have the responsibility for the people who trust you to repay this kind of confidence.