Guardiola’s gobbets

Arecently-released video showing Spanish film director Fernando Truebo interviewing Pep Guardiola during his time as Barcelona manager features the two, in black and white, facing each other, seated in art deco chairs. Far from engaging in a cliché-centred dialogue, they discussed both the aesthetic enterprise of Trueba’s films and Guardiola’s sport. “It is only a game,” Pep says at one point; for all his belief in artistic tiki-taka, at its core is a sport in which winning and not beauty is the aim.

It is a revealing image of the new Bayern Munich manager. It’s hard to imagine Harry Redknapp or Alex Ferguson sitting down with Danny Boyle or Steve McQueen, considering the nature of football itself. There is a difference between eloquence and knowledge, and Redknapp should not be dismissed simply because of his Cockney accent and reliance on certain clichés that make him seem a parody (he’s not a fucking wheeler-dealer). When the scandal-searching media cameras are not in his face, Fergie is just as capable of analysing a game as Guardiola is.

Even so, despite his recent claim to “hope to have the challenge or the opportunity to train” in England in the future, it is hard to imagine Pep playing his part in the theatre that is the Premier League. That brief statement sent the press into hype overdrive just one day before he signed for Bayern. Some seemed outraged when the German move was confirmed, with most papers describing it as a “snub” to Chelsea and Abramovich.

His appeal is less in his talent as in his potential role in the carousel of managers: he is a European intellectual, an arthouse film to the Premier League’s blockbuster. This is Wenger 2.0, a figure who can revolutionise the English game, and even end up doing it on a wet night at Stoke. Whisperings of that arch-villain ‘the Special One’ returning only adds to the desire to see Pep here, so that the El Clasico battle between good and evil can continue. Because the easy availability of sports coverage has ended the age of exclusives that once fuelled newspaper sales, the press craves the narrative of the Pep-José rivalry.

For the same reason Pep is reluctant to commit to English football. Manchester City and Chelsea could offer a sky-high salary, certainly far beyond Bayern’s reach. They could provide a transfer budget to sign anyone, and can match the (probably apocryphal) £250 million release clause in Messi’s contract. But ultimately these two teams cannot give Pep what he truly desires, a sense of control over everything; as he says to Trueba, “I think I work best when I know I have the freedom to decide my own future.” In England there are  simply too many external influences upon the running of a billionaire’s team, as di Matteo et al have learned.

If we are to see Pep in England it won’t be at one of the sugar daddy clubs. He is looking for a club like Bayern, where a successful youth programme has bought a club unprecedented success in the last 20 years and an ageing manager needs replacing in the near future. If only there was a club like that…