Pep Guardiola has finally laid to rest speculation about his Manchester City future by signing a two-year contract extension.
Explaining the reasons why the Catalan, who was approaching the final six months of his previous deal, said he “cannot be in a better place.”
“I can’t say thank you enough to everyone at the club for trusting me. I am happy and comfortable, and I have everything I need to do my job as best as possible,” Guardiola added, “I know the next chapter of this club will be amazing for the next decade. It happened over the last 10 years, and it will happen in the next 10 years because this club is so stable.
“I still have the feeling there is more we can achieve together and that is why I want to stay and continue fighting for trophies.”
If Guardiola does see this current deal through to its conclusion it will mean he’s spent three times longer at City than he did at Bayern Munich and more than double what he did at Barcelona.
That’s quite a change for a manager who previously had a reputation for only lasting between 3-4 years.
This begs the question; how has he been convinced to clock up close to a decade in cold, wet North West England?
The answer is as much about what Manchester City doesn’t do as what it does.
Barcelona pressure cooker
Often the quotes attached to contract announcements are filled with empty platitudes and little insight.
But Guardiola’s explanation of the factors that convinced him to stay was revealing.
“[Chairman] Khaldoon [Al Mubarak] never pushed me,” he said, “He never told me ‘Pep you have to do it’. He respects me a lot and it is an example of how we have been since day one.
“He gives his opinion, I give my opinion and after everyone works in the way he believes he should for the benefit of the club and the whole organization, from the top until the bottom. Lately, we decide ‘OK we will do it’ and after the decision with the family was right, so I said let’s do it.”
The description of this relationship couldn’t be of greater contrast to his experiences at FC Barcelona where off-field drama and boardroom politics often weighed heavy on the coach.
Guardiola explained he was “drained” when he announced his departure from his boyhood club after four years.
“Time has taken its toll,” the Catalan said at the time, “I rise each day and don’t feel the same. I am going with the understanding that I have done my duty.”
His departure was still shrouded in some mystery, but a sense of the internal drama Guardiola was dealing with emerged during his one-year sabbatical away from the game.
Despite traveling to New York he was repeatedly dragged back into the Nou Camp soap opera.
”I told them [the president and his directors] I was going 6,000km away and asked them to leave me in peace, but they haven’t kept their word,” he said after becoming Bayern Munich manager, “too many things have happened that have crossed the line.”
From suggestions a fallout with the players was behind his exit to accusing him of not seeing former assistant Tito Vilanova while he was being treated for cancer, disputes during his sabbatical meant Guardiola went to Germany with the scars of FC Barcelona politics.
Bayern was supposed to be more stable, but in Germany too the Catalan found himself dramatically clashing with colleagues at the club.
Beef in Bavaria
When Guardiola turned up at Bayern Munich the feeling was that this could be the environment where he built a dynasty.
Away from the emotion and politics of Barcelona, the Bavarians had the stability and resource for the Catalan to thrive.
But from the start of his reign, there were problems with injuries. In his first season especially, Guardiola spent much of his managerial guile devising ways to cope with the loss of key players.
At the heart of these problems was a cultural clash between the coach and Bayern’s long-term medical team.
It culminated with influential club doctor Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt and three other members of his team walking out after a 3-1 defeat by Porto in the Champions League in 2015.
Müller-Wohlfahrt has offered a scathing analysis of the dispute in the years that followed.
“Guardiola was often portrayed in the media as an innovative, if not revolutionary, coach,” he said,
“But at Bayern Munich, he turned the clock back tremendously. He even went so far as to turn our medically thought-out, well-rehearsed preparation program on its head before the actual football training.”
It would be wrong to say the clash with the medical team was the sole reason for his departure, Guardiola had a good relationship with club bigwigs Uli Hoeness and Kalle Heinz-Rummenigge.
It wasn’t that he was overwhelmed by everything the way he was at Barca.
A more likely explanation is that he was lured to City because, unlike Barca or Bayern, had been preparing their infrastructure specifically for the manager himself.
Creating a Pep-friendly environment
After Guardiola departed from Barcelona, Manchester City swooped to bring in the Catalan’s sporting director Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano.
The pair both had a strong working relationship with Guardiola as part of Joan Laporta’s first term as Barcelona president.
Begiristain is particularly close to the City manager, last year he cited the former Barca player as a reason for he’d remained in Manchester.
“To work here with people like Txiki is a joy,” he said, “they are difficult to find. We met almost 30 years ago, we played together and had a relationship in Barcelona. He trusted me when I wasn’t anyone, training in the fourth division.
“One of the reasons why I extend my time here was because of him. We met when I was 19 and we’ve been close friends. We work together well. We analyze why when we win or lose and don’t judge the other one.”
It’s not just having those two ex-Barca directors at the club though, it’s the setup. Just as Liverpool has continued to develop its infrastructure around Jurgen Klopp, City has tailored its approach to Guardiola.
From every age group in the academy playing in the same style as the first team to the grand new training center opposite the training ground, the environment could not be better suited to the Catalan.
He doesn’t get every player he asks for, but he has control and more importantly for Guardiola he is left to do his thing.
There have been off-field dramas at City, most spectacularly the overturned ban from the Champions League by UEFA
And that’s why he’s staying.