“Where else could I ever find players like these?” asks Pep Guardiola during a conversation in Valencia.
During his hour-and-a-half long conversation with journalist Ramon Rovira at the Palau de la Música and in front of a crowd of 1.800 customers of Banco Sabadell, Pep Guardiola discussed, among other things, the urge to escape far away and the wish to continue enjoying being part of such a unique club.
The audience was captivated by the words of the blaugrana coach, who used the concept of Stendhal’s Syndrome (the illness which affects an individual who is exposed to particularly beautiful art, esp. in a small space) to explain how he feels about Barça’s performance in the past four years. He continued to praise this unique generation of players who recently seduced him all over again with a 0-1 victory in the Copa del Rey game against Hospitalet, thanks to Iniesta’s goal.
“These guys are crazy about the game, they feel it in their gut. Last night in a small town like Hospitalet Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc and Villa were running like mad until the last second, pressuring the goalkeeper, and then two days later they’re playing at Wembley! I called them today and they told me their calf muscles are worn out. When a sportsman says he’s tired, they should tell him:‘look at these guys!’ They have everything: money, women, titles… and they’re still trying their hardest. I used five kids from the B team [last night] because I wanted them to see what it means to really compete. If you think about Xavi, he played five years without winning anything, the fans would whistle at him, they wanted to throw him out. This is a unique generation as far as their love for football goes. My greatest pleasure is that people say they love how we play, the same way they like to go to a movie or a play. They have won 12 out of 15 possible titles; with other players it would have been impossible.”
The subject of his leaving Barça was touched upon during the conversation: “As a player there came a moment when I knew I had to just leave. As a manager, I hope it’ll be the same. It’s very tough, you suffer from the pressure and anxiety, you can never catch a breath, you have to deal with the things you do well as well as your failures, and then there’s Stendhal’s Syndrome: where else can I find a place like this, players like these? Happiness doesn’t come with titles, there are more important things. When I was 25 I already wanted to be a coach; now I can’t wait to go home at the end of the day. The best thing ever for me would be if they let me choose when to leave. I want the decision to be up to me”. But where would he go? “It would be impossible to manage a Spanish team right now, maybe in a few years… I like the Bundesliga because Germany is a great country, with great teams, and it would be nice to learn the language; France is an incredible place to live with my family; and in Arab countries people are wonderful…” [
In difficult moments, Guardiola takes refuge in the close friendships he’s established with his collaborators, with some of them he goes back a long way. “Being coach means to be alone, I suffer a lot from every defeat and I want to be surrounded by my people, I live on their love and friendship, not on trophies. I need to be hugged, and to fight… That was my only condition for [Txiki] Begiristain: I wanted those guys with me." Of course, the day he decides he wants to go to another club, he’ll take his family with him: “My kids are 10, 8 and 3 and I love them so much. I could not live without them. And their mother is worth an Empire.” [
As a player, Guardiola learned to hide his personal life because people could use it against him to hurt him. “Public opinion is cruel,” he said. “I like very normal things: wine, books, my family…” Then he bared his soul to the audience: “You learn ten times more from defeat. Victory gives you ten minutes of peace, but it makes you numb. After a defeat, on the other hand, you can focus on the things that didn’t go well. I have many fears and many insecurities, I don’t like people who go around [wacing their magic wand] to solve all problems. I want to feel good in my microcosmos.” [
Does he regret pressuring the club to sell Eto’o, Bojan and Ibrahimovic? “I regret many things, every day. The concept of justice is a very complicated one. Those who don’t get to play feel like it’s a personal attack on them. The closer I get to a player the more I get burned, so I have to put distance between me and them. I want to be able to choose who I’m working with, that is my authority [prerogative].”
Guardiola mentioned the human factor more than once during the conversation. “Those who don’t get to play as much must have a really big heart [must be incredibly selfless/generous] or there will be conflicts. If Xavi suddenly decided he wants to play in Messi’s position, he wouldn’t be happy there. To each their own place. Many players are really close friends within the team. During [my first year as coach] the rules were more strict; in the second year they learned to work things out among themselves, although from time to time I have to call someone at home…”. He also praised Keita as an example of humanity among his teammates. “I will take with me all the love, not the titles, that people like him have given me.”
Pep then proceeded to answer some questions from the audience. Someone asked who’s the funniest guy ‘in the hut’. “I never go into the changing room. Villa is an incredible kid, as is Piqué.” And who’s the boss? “That’d be me” he answered and the audience burst out laughing [T/N “el menda” is something like “me, myself & I”, more or less], followed by vigorous clapping, the same as when he explained what it feels like to have 90,000 people booing you. “I dare you to try and stand up to 90,000 people who are whistling at you and yelling all sorts of tings at you. It’s not worth the money you earn. They’ve chanted at me ‘Burro, burro’ [literally: ass. Can be translated as dumb, stupid, etc.] That hurts, especially if you’re trying your best. You have to endure it and toughen up.”
Does it bother him that they call him ‘philosopher’? “They use it as a derogatory term. Truth is, wish I were one!”
In any case, he does not want to be accused of desplaying false modesty. “I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. In a world where where making choices is hard, I make them. If can’t, I just disconnect, open up a book [and start to read].”
He doesn’t see himself as an example to follow. “Of course not!. Some books [
The audience was also curious to know whether the famous “Mourinho es el puto amo” phrase he uttered at the press conference of the Champions League semifinals was prepared beforehand. “No, it was completely spontaneous”, answered Pep and once again laughter erupted everywhere. The coach admitted that he always follows his intuitions, but only after processing all the information available. “I just close my eyes and let myself go. For example, why did I sub a certain player in? Because during the talk [I think he means the talks he gives his players before the gamn?] he was paying more attention than the others. My gut feelings never fail me.
Is this man a great communicator? “Actually, I see two people over there yawning.” He answered after he realized he’d already won the audience over. And when someone pointed out that their boss chose not to attend the event because ‘it’s easy to win titles with a budget of 400 million [Euros]’ he said “And what the heck are you doing here?”.
Would he be able to win as many trophies with a budget of 4 millions? “Surely not. That’s why it’s normal that Madrid or Barcelona win the Liga” he added.
Lastly, Guardiola revealed that as a student he had very good grades, but he never thought about following a different career path. Not even now. “I’d still be doing something [related to football]”, was his last comment before he stood up and left, followed by a standing ovation.
Source article (in Spanish) - El País: http://www.elpais.com/articulo/deportes/Guardiola/sindrome/Stendhal/elpepudep/20111110elpepudep_13/Tes
Note: If in some places the sentence continuum seems awkward and fragmented/disconnected, it’s because it's like that in the original Spanish, too. It seems like the writer just decided to string together quotes with no regard for continuity or cohesion. :/// I could have bridged the gap in some places by tying the sentences together but chose not to, so that the quotes you read remain closer to the original.