Saturday, 26 May 2012

Guest Post: "Farewell Joseph 'Pep' Guardiola, my son hardly knew thee"

On There Are No Easy Football Blogs At This Level, we see the game very much like a chess match, or a tactical puzzle. Today I am pleased to introduce Benjamin Bloom as a guest writer. He will be dropping by occassionally with an educated look at football culture and the myths that the media make. In his first post, he says goodbye to Pep Guardiola:

Never one who needs to be told to curb their enthusiasm, you'll have to forgive me for gushing but what more can be said about a man who has won 14 out of 19 trophy's available for his side to win, a man who has an an extraordinary record of 3.5 trophy's a year and has created what many think inside, and outside, of football to be the best club team ever. Well that was my dilemma when contemplating what I would write for an article to supplement Guardiola's departure from Barcelona. What could I say that people hadn't already said, but it was when watching Pep's last game in charge, the kings cup final against Athletic Bilbao, that I noticed my six week old son, Rudi, watching the TV screen with a look on his face only normally seen on the faces of people who can comprehend the beauty
on show. Of course I am all too aware that Rudi is merely bedazzled by the quick moving colours displayed on the screen but my partner, Emma, is not so sure. We debate this as we see Messi score the second goal of the game (his 73rd of the season!) to put Barcelona two up inside the first twenty minutes - a powerful right foot shot that leaves the keeper planted - and Emma, unperturbed at my celebrating of such class, points out that Rudi's mood has also been uplifted to similar heights of mine. I retort that he is happy because I'm happy (although he is still looking at the screen) but my point is delivered to an unimpressed Emma who then lands a blow, a knock so hard that no sane argument can dispute it's merits; she slowly, as if enjoying the mental torture of seeing defeat happen in her presence, reminds me of the inconsolable tears from Rudi that greeted the football on offer in the play off final the week before between 'Fat Sam' Allardyce's pragmatic West Ham and Blackpool.

Emma had won this one but we can both agree that little Rudi will be too young to remember any of this, he will never remember the majestic first thirty minutes against Bilbao when Barcelona looked every inch the real deal. With three goals coming from the wonderful attacking play in the first half, the second half was inevitably slower in pace and excitement with the win seemingly already in the bag (Rudi fell asleep, to which Emma politely informed me cements her argument). It gave me time to think about how I would recall this team to Rudi when he is older and I realised I couldn't, just as I am sceptical about the teams and players that came before my era so too will he be, because our love of football is intrinsically linked to our own experiences throughout life. I was once in a pub with a man who was quite angrily explaining to another why Pele is a better player than Leo Messi when I asked him how he could possibly argue as he was under 30 and was born after Pele had retired, a fact he didn't seem to think to be salient, but hey, never let facts get in the way of a good rant. It's not for me to dispute the greatness of a player as we can only judge what we know and I know Barcelona, a team I grew up with as I lived there from six months old till the age of three and have followed them since, a team so good that to watch every game one would have to develop an opium addiction to dull the senses so you don't end up screaming at the telly, "WHO THE FUCK GAVE YOU THE RIGHT TO BE SO GOOD!" every two minutes of play, only returning to normality by weaning yourself off by watching Stoke whilst guzzling speed balls and necking red bull.

That's why I have to give up Barcelona now, I can't afford the drugs and I don't want to be a bad influence on Rudi (which I will be if I keep watching Stoke), but I will look back fondly on a man who created a team that now, for me at least, stands along the great sides that I have watched first hand, the Manchester United team of 92-94,98-99 and my personal favourite 07-08, ajax 95, Arsenal's invincible's, the Galacticos and now Barcelona 08-12. A lot has been said of the fact that tiki taka is not to everyone's taste, that some prefer a more direct approach or those that long for rugged defending are not seeing something others claim to see, but even those can't doubt that what Barcelona did worked well and it worked well consistently for four years, how many other trumpet blowers for other styles can put forward a team that had a philosophy that brought so much prolonged success. others will say Guardiola has inherited a good team from Rijkaard and he is just winging it but it was Pep, in his first couple of months as manager, who fought the law, and Barcelona, to make sure Messi could get his chance to represent Argentina at the Olympics in 08 where he won a gold medal and Guardilola gained his trust, he also moved Messi from the left and into the 'false 9' position. Messi's record was 10 league goals in 28 league games, once Pep took Messi and moved him centrally his record has been, 21 in 32, 34 in 35, 31 in 33 and this season an incredible 50 in 37. There has also been questions about his signings, most notably Ibrahimovic, but how can you measure the importance of Villa, Mascherano as well as bringing Busquets and Pedro into the team given they were all vital in winning two Champions League's (how many European trophies does a player have to win before his considered a success, for Heskey, too many to count), and what about his lasting legacy, players such as Christian Tello, Isaac Cuenca and of course Thiago Alcantara who could be the future of Barcelona and Spain. When I recount stories of my Barcelona watching days (with the inevitable YouTube clips) to Rudi when he is older, I'm sure I will sound no different to the people who tried to enthral me with their own personal stories of Georgie Best and Eusabio that left me cold. But I know the impact of what Pep Guardiola has done these past four glorious seasons will be felt for years, and one thing is for sure, I'm glad I was around to feel it.

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