Thursday 21 September 2017

Arrival of Barcelona maestro likely to fuel talk of Guardiola

Pete Jensen

IF Manchester City's long-term aims are to land Pep Guardiola and win the Champions League, it would have been impossible for them have picked anyone better suited to the job than Txiki Begiristain.

A winner of the European Cup once as a player and twice as a sporting director, he was also the man who convinced Barcelona when they were picking a new manager in 2008 that, while candidate Jose Mourinho would bring silverware, Guardiola would deliver a golden age.

Roberto Mancini may have breathed a sigh of relief at Brian Marwood being moved to the club's academy but now not only does he have the architect of Barcelona's greatest team working over him; the shadow of the coach he sponsored is looming large.

When Begiristain took over as sporting director at Barcelona in 2003, the club had gone four seasons without winning anything, but in seven years at the helm they won 12 trophies -- four La Liga triumphs and two Champions League triumphs as well as Barca's first World Club Championship. The president of the club during that time, Joan Laporta, has described Begiristain as his best signing.

When things soured under Frank Rijkaard and Mourinho applied to take over at the club he had worked at as an assistant to Bobby Robson, Begiristain took his biggest decision.

Mourinho met with vice-president Marc Ingla and the plan he laid out for the club's future convinced Ingla.

However, Laporta's trusted right-hand man, who was also at that meeting, persuaded everyone that Guardiola was the man for the job.

To say that Txiki called it right would be football's greatest understatement. Guardiola won everything in his first season -- contesting six trophies and lifting them all with a brand of football that reached its nirvana at the home of Barca's greatest rival -- Real Madrid.

Begiristain watched that famous 6-2 win at the Bernabeu from a Madrid hotel with his family because it was his son's birthday and he did not want to take him to the stadium.

It had been a Txiki-made victory too -- six of the 11 players on the pitch had been his signings.

Asked once to evaluate Begiristain's seven years at the club, Guardiola joked: "Did Txiki do well? Well he signed me didn't he. "

The question now is can he sign him again?

The two men did not part company on perfect terms in 2010 when Begiristain decided to leave with out-going president Laporta and Guardiola felt let down by his former dream team team-mate.

But too many good things had happened prior to the parting for any bad feeling to last.

If Mancini wins the league this season then the decision will perhaps not have to be made but, should City's new director of fooball become kingmaker, Begiristain has form for picking his former team-mate -- even when Mourinho is the other option on the table. (© Independent News Service)

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