Critics of Pep Guardiola refuse to acknowledge his managerial pedigree until he manages a small team with a limited budget.
They say he’s only ever coached teams full to the brim with world class talent and anyone who has ever played a few games of Football Manager could have won a similar number of trophies.
But the fact is time and time again, Pep has taken promising players and turned them into incredible performers.
Such as… Gerard Pique.
Shakira’s worse half is a proud La Masia product but in the years after his graduation he was somewhat lost.
In four years at Man United he failed to fully convince Sir Alex Ferguson of his worth and his longest run of regular game time came during a loan spell with Real Zaragoza.
Guardiola moulded him into an extra deep-lying playmaker, challenging him to step up to the role of a ball-playing centre-back in a pass-centric team.
Pique rose to the challenge, allowing Carles Puyol to teach him in the dark art of defending while absorbing Guardiola’s lessons about possession and distribution from deep.
The result is one very strained trophy cabinet.
2 Thiago Alcantara
Guardiola’s apprentice followed him from Barcelona to Bayern Munich and surrendered to his teachings.
Thiago is very much a product of the tika-taka’s enthusiast’s philosophy.
As conductor in Bavaria, he could often be seen consulting with his manager on the sideline.
Guardiola tried to clone Xavi, and he didn’t do a bad job all things considered.
3 Raheem Sterling
The England winger was labelled a £49million mistake by many before Guardiola’s arrival at Man City.
The exciting Liverpool teenager who drew fans to the edge of their seats had lost his way at the Etihad.
His confidence had evaporated and at best he could be described as a ‘luxury player’.
A few months with Pep has turned him into an effective match-winner.
The most obvious example of how Guardiola’s technical tweaks has increased a player’s impact.
4 David Alaba
Okay, so Alaba was a very fine player pre-Guardiola. A very, very fine player.
The Austrian midfielder turned full-back starred for Jupp Heynckes’ treble-winning side of 2013 but he reached a new level that didn’t seem possible once the Catalan gaffer took charge.
Guardiola called Alaba Bayern’s ‘God’ in 2015, based on the player’s receptiveness and effective implementation of coaching.
Believe it not, some thought Pedro would join the list of La Masia graduates not good enough for the first team.
The speedy winger was made to cut his teeth for Barcelona’s B team for some time and his promotion to join Xavi, Andres Iniesta and co was far from certain.
Guardiola’s insistence of making use of the width at the Nou Camp meant Pedro became a key member of a devastating attacking unit.
If you look back at his goals from 2009 – 2011 in particular, you say see the masterplan in action.
6 John Stones
Similar to Pique in that Guardiola has used his attacking knowledge to develop and improve a defender.
Stones was a raw talent at Barnsley and Everton and, like Sterling, a high-profile, big-money move seemed to shake his confidence.
Guardiola has restored the young defender’s self-belief and has been rewarded with an instrumental performer… when fit.
7 Lionel Messi
Messi would obviously have become a superstar under any coach in the world, such is the Argentine’s supernatural talent.
The Barcelona No10 was born to dribble past defenders and score goals with his wand of a left foot.
But Guardiola taught him the value of passing and attacking as a cohesive unit.
These days Messi is one of the best passers in the world and that’s certainly down to Barcelona’s philosophy, drummed into him during Guardiola’s tenure.
Now we must wait for Nathan Redmond’s metamorphosis…
- Why David Silva should be considered one of the Premier League’s best ever midfielders
- How Peter Crouch went from hero to zero in the same fixture in just 12 months
- Andres Iniesta’s opinion on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or win will make you love him even more