Introducing Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola
The central Catalonian municipality of Santpedor in Spain boasts the proud total of 7,159 inhabitants. Pride is the first emotion each and every one of them will feel when contemplating Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola i Sala, comfortably the community’s most famous son, who left home to join Barcelona as a boy and went on to leave an indelible mark on the legendary football club.
Guardiola was taken on by the Barça youth academy at the age of 13 and developed into a talented defensive midfielder. He made his first-team debut for the Catalan giants as a 19-year-old, and laid hands on the European Champions’ Cup under coach Johan Cruyff another two years later in 1992, also winning Olympic gold with Spain the same year. The man capped 47 times by his country collected a total of 16 winners’ medals in 17 years as a player with Barcelona, where he also captained the side from the 1997/98 season.
In 2001, the year Bayern last won the Champions League, Guardiola moved on for a two-year spell in Italy, before announcing the end of his career another two years later in 2005 as an Al Ahli player. The 41-year-old briefly came out of retirement in 2006 for a short spell with Mexican outfit Dorados de Sinaloa, but hung up his boots for good a short time later.
As a player, Guardiola was widely regarded as Cruyff’s chief lieutenant on the field of play, and he duly made a smooth transition into coaching. In his debut season in 2007, he guided Barcelona's reserve team into the Spanish second tier. Joan Laporta, Barcelona president at the time, promoted Pep to head coach in 2008.
Fourteen trophies in four years
And Guardiola was to post a unique achievement in his very first season at the helm. In 2009, Barcelona became the first Spanish club to pull off the highly-prized treble of the league, the domestic cup and the Champions League in a single season. But that was by no means all, as Guardiola's men also claimed the Spanish and European super cups and the FIFA Club World Cup, a total of six trophies in his debut campaign.
In his four years as Barcelona head coach, the 41-year-old led his men to an incredible 14 trophies, including the Champions League twice, making him the most successful supremo in the history of the illustrious club. However, in April 2012, the father of three opted not to extend his contract, as he wished to spend time away from the game.
Discovering New York
Not that the coach stayed at home with his feet up. Choosing New York as a base, Guardiola signed up as an extramural student at Columbia University, although his principal goal was to recharge his batteries and build up strength for a new challenge within football. As of summer 2013, that challenge means the top coaching job at FC Bayern.