Saturday 17 March 2018

Ronnie Whelan: Pep Guardiola is taking a leaf out of Giovanni Trapattoni's book

Guardiola has similar traits to Trapattoni
Guardiola has similar traits to Trapattoni
Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

THERE’S something about Pep Guardiola that reminds me a lot of Giovanni Trapattoni. He really doesn’t care what anybody thinks about his work.

It’s a common enough trait in great managers and we know a lot about it from our time with Jack Charlton.

But Trapattoni’s ring of confidence was of another order of magnitude altogether compared to Big Jack’s.

He came to Ireland and dealt with English managers as if they were the least important people in the universe.

Journalists? He played games with them.

Guardiola is the same. He has no interest in the opinion of the English press, and it shows.

First off, he showed Joe Hart, England’s number one goalkeeper, the door because he couldn’t play enough football without his hands.

There was a song and dance in the media but Guardiola made no attempt to appease fans. He made a cold, clean decision and he will stand or fall by it.

Likewise Sergio Aguero, as popular and as important a player to Manchester City fans as Hart ever was, has found his position not assured.

Most managers, even great ones, would view Aguero as a huge asset and would treat him accordingly.

Not Guardiola. No longer guaranteed a place, Aguero must wonder what he has done to deserve this treatment, given the contribution he has made over the years.

And it’s not like he’s a goalkeeper. The Hart issue was more than just his awkwardness with the ball at his feet. He has been flaky enough over the last two years.

Aguero’s stunning display against West Bromwich Albion earned him praise and even bear hugs from his manager. Reuters / Darren Staples

But Aguero scores goals, and more than almost any other top-rank professional footballer on the planet.

My priority would have been Champions League goals away against Barcelona and let the likes of the West Brom game look after itself.

Of course, it must always be pointed out that we have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. Maybe Aguero’s head has been turned by Real Madrid or, indeed, Barca.

Maybe Guardiola asked him for a long-term commitment and he wouldn’t give it.

Either way, it looks like madness to drop your best striker when your team might only get one chance, although he has said that he will play Aguero against Barcelona this week but jokingly said that he would not reveal in what position!

Pep looks very secure in his decisions, though, and there is a huge contrast between the way Guardiola is handling his brief and how the other new man in Manchester, Jose Mourinho, is coping with his squad.

It is worth bringing Jurgen Klopp into this as an example of a different approach to man-management than either of the two Manchester mega-managers.

Klopp has done a remarkable job turning Daniel Sturridge from a player who everyone felt he could not do without to a man on the outside looking in.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

Klopp has handled the Sturridge situation with great skill and while I’m being driven mad with irritation every time I watch Liverpool these days, I have to take my hat off to the man and the way he is doing his job.

Every time Liverpool concede another stupid goal, as they did twice against Palace on Saturday, I’m reminded of the reasons why I can’t see a title for Anfield this season.

But then I look at Mourinho and I’m more than happy that fate sent Klopp our way. This time last year, Mourinho was tormented and there are clear signs that his lot hasn’t improved.

Sent to the stands during that awful 0-0 with Burnley, he is now walking the edge of the cliff he fell off at Stamford Bridge and I’m pretty sure he would sell his soul for someone like Aguero or even Sturridge right now.

Guardiola made his call on Aguero and without any sign that he is worried by related criticism.

Klopp eased Sturridge into his team and out again but now has him at a point where he is a realistic transfer candidate for big clubs.

Mourinho is rattling around in a hotel suite in Manchester while Zlatan Ibrahimovic shoots blanks, Paul Pogba plays like a schoolboy constantly tripping over his shoelaces and Wayne Rooney sits quietly, weighing up his options.

It’s not going well, is it?

Herald Sport

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