Guardiola: There is much less pressure than at Barca
Despite the tension and sarcasm in his voice and the talk that “my goodbye has already started”, Pep Guardiola admitted the pressure on him at Manchester City bears no comparison to what he endured at Barcelona.
The sight of Guardiola snapping at reporters after Monday’s win over Burnley might have indicated that the world’s most innovative coach is tiring of a Premier League that is proving far harder to crack than anything he faced in Germany or Spain.
The truth is that even during three relatively serene seasons with Bayern Munich, he could lose his temper. “I have been here three years and you have not asked me a single question about football,” was how Guardiola rounded on the Munich press pack towards the end of his time at Bayern.
“There is not more pressure here, no,” he said when asked by NBC Television if he was feeling the stress of the Premier League. “The most pressure was in Barcelona. You cannot compare the pressure in Barcelona and Madrid to Munich or Manchester. Here it is less, much, much less.”
His observation that he was coming to the end of his coaching career might sound strange from a man who is 45, a few months older than Alex Ferguson was when he took the Manchester United reins.
However, Guardiola said his philosophy was not to stay in one place too long. “I will not be on the bench when I am 60 or 65,” he said. “I have the feeling I am approaching the end of my career as a manager, I am pretty sure of that. If you’re looking for me, you will find me on the golf course.
“I get the American culture, where people do not stay for a long time in one place,” he added. “They move a lot and I believe in that. I decided to prove myself in Manchester, for me and my family to move out of our comfort zone.”
Manchester may be far more comfortable than Catalonia. Guardiola’s relationships with both his Barca presidents – Joan Laporta and Sandro Rossell – were difficult. Laporta’s temper could be volcanic while Rossell was a born politician whose words could seldom be taken at face value.
In a wide-ranging interview, recorded before the New Year's Eve defeat at Liverpool, Guardiola painted a picture of a relaxed individual who no longer stayed late at the training ground obsessing over tactics. He admitted he no longer watched videos of opponents playing six different games as he had once done before every match with Barcelona.
"That was when I was young," he said. "Now I am old. I have lost too much hair trying to watch six games. Believe me, I am a normal person who loves to be with his family. I don't want to spend all my time here working.
"When I came people expected a lot of things from me and my staff because we won a lot of prizes in the past. But the best football I played at Barcelona was the last year I was there - much better than when we won the Treble (in 2009). My last year in Munich was much, much better than my first.
"So on the last day I am manager in Manchester I will be better than now. You need to make mistakes to understand many things and understand players."
However, Guardiola stressed that he still demanded his players perform with style and said that he had derived little pleasure from the roughly-hewn wins at Burnley and Crystal Palace.
In an interview with a Madrid radio station, Spanish journalist Lu Martin, who has co-authored books with Guardiola, said the City manager felt he had taken over "a second-tier side like Villarreal in La Liga - a team which is not one of the top sides. I am not giving you my opinion, I am telling you what Guardiola thinks."
After the 1-0 defeat at Anfield that ensured his team would slip to fifth place in the Premier League - one place lower than Villarreal's standing in La Liga - the City manager was asked when they would start playing "like a Guardiola team".
"It will take a long time. I have to try to convince them on the training ground, in private one-to-one meetings, in group meetings that we are together. I try to convince them because this is the better way.
"After they have played more they will believe in it more. For that you need years. It is more like an orchestra. The player has to understand he is part of a team. If everyone wants to be a jazz musician, it will be chaos."