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Pep Guardiola will stop at nothing to taste success with Man City in the Premier League

By Steven Beacom

Published 03/02/2016

High point: Pep Guardiola is hailed by his former Barca players after winning the Copa del Rey
High point: Pep Guardiola is hailed by his former Barca players after winning the Copa del Rey

He's a perfectionist, a pragmatist and considered the best football manager on the planet... and he's coming to the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola will take charge of Manchester City in June on a three-year contract and be expected to take English football by storm.

Having £200m to spend in the summer should help.

Whether he matches the world domination he achieved with Barcelona or the domestic domination he currently enjoys with Bayern Munich remains to be seen. Unlike Barca and Bayern, or neighbours Manchester United come to that, City are not one of Europe's traditional powerhouses.

The success they have had in recent years - two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and one League Cup - is down to billionaire Sheikh Mansour buying the club in 2008 and ploughing his money into the team.

Prior to that, City were the 'other' team in Manchester with hard luck stories and a loyal fan base for comfort.

Would you believe there are some City supporters who enjoyed the old days better? Guardiola would find that difficult to comprehend.

He has thought like a winner all his life and will want City players, directors and fans to think the same way.

Growing up in a village close to Barcelona with two older sisters and a younger brother, you won't be surprised to learn that Josep 'Pep' Guardiola Sala was obsessed with football.

As a boy rarely would you see him without a ball at his feet.

He had talent, which was spotted by Barca scouts leading him to the Catalan club's academy at the age of 13. Six years later, in 1990, he was playing for the first team.

Guardiola would become a key midfielder for the club, winning multiple La Liga titles and a European Cup. As he gained more experience his influence in the dressing room grew and a certain Louis van Gaal, now having difficulties as manager of United, made him skipper.

Guardiola, who won 47 Spanish caps having made his international debut against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in 1992, relished the role of leader.

After a trophy laden period at Barca, his playing career petered out with Brescia and Roma in Italy before he moved to Al-Ahli in Qatar and latterly Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico.

It is interesting to note that when he was at Brescia in 2001, Guardiola was furious when banned from playing for four months for failing two drug tests. He fought the case and was eventually cleared of all charges eight years later.

Guardiola is not a man who gives up easily.

Returning back home, he took over as coach of Barcelona B in 2007. He impressed so much that a year later he was appointed boss of the senior Barcelona squad replacing Dutchman Frank Rijkaard and so began an extraordinary journey that will take him to the Etihad Stadium in June.

In his first season, Guardiola set the tone by winning the Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey. There was more and more glory to come with Pep helping to mould Lionel Messi into the finest footballer in the world and a team, containing the Argentine maestro, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, into what was described as the greatest ever.

By the time Guardiola left the Nou Camp in 2012 he had won 14 trophies as boss, largely coming out on top of Jose Mourinho, who was in charge of Real Madrid, in a battle which fascinated football.

Then came a year-long sabbatical with Guardiola spending a lot of time in New York, reading, researching football and getting to know anyone he felt he could learn from, such as former world chess champion Gary Kasparov.

Guardiola also worked on his German, to add to his fluency in Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian and English, ahead of his next assignment with Bayern Munich.

Totally devoted to tactics, performances, discipline of players, preparation, possession and why games are won and lost, the break also gave Guardiola more time to spend with his family. He has three children - Maria, Màrius and Valentina - with wife Cristina Serra, whose family owned a clothes store in Spain. They met when he was 18 and married in a low key ceremony in Catalonia in 2014. Cristina is credited with giving her man a sense of style.

At Bayern he is on course for a third Bundesliga title, though Champions League honours for Munich have so far eluded him. If he leaves without European Cup glory, he will be frustrated because he is driven to win all there is to win.

Guardiola has a ruthless edge yet is hugely popular with players, who feel he constantly improves them with his coaching skills.

No wonder there is great excitement at City about the man coming their way. Guardiola will strive for excellence. He is unlikely to disappoint.

Belfast Telegraph

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