Friday, 27 March 2009

Leadership lessons from a Catalan hero

author: Simon Kuper
source: Financial Times

date: 21 March 2009

A year ago, one of Barcelona's vice-presidents mused over lunch at the Nou Camp stadium that perhaps Josep "Pep" Guardiola should be the club's next coach. Guardiola then 37, had never managed a professional football club, let alone the biggest on earth. True, replied the veep, but Guardiola was a Catalan, and "Barça" longed to have a home-grown coach.

Months later Guardiola got the job. He then transformed last season's jaded Barça team into what the great Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi calls "the most beautiful footballing cause of recent years". Guardiola's inspired appointment offers two lessons to any company: how to choose a boss, and how the boss should choose his team.

The key point about Guardiola is that he has been identified with Barcelona almost from birth. As Jimmy Burns writes in Barça: A People's Passion , locals still remember Guardiola as a skinny 15-year-old ballboy illegally running on to the pitch and hugging a player during a European semi-final in 1986. They remember him as a skinny playmaker, standing on the balcony of the Generalitat building in 1992, holding aloft the European Cup, and saying in Catalan, " Ja la teniu aquí " ("Here you have it"). The phrase, deliberately echoed the legendary " Ja soc aquí " ("Here I am") of Josep Tarradellas, the Catalan president, when he returned from French exile after General Franco died.

But most Barça fans always hoped that one day, the man known as The Myth would return, as their skinny coach. In other words, Guardiola, a reader of Catalan poetry, is the perfect Catalan hero. This background matters because it helps Guardiola govern with the essence of the club culture. Guardiola understands how the fans want Barcelona to play: the attacking, quick-passing football down the wings that the Dutchman Johan Cruijff introduced, that is to say, Cruijff painted the chapel, and subsequent coaches must merely restore and improve it.

The fans agree. By governing with the grain, Guardiola wins instant acceptance. It's like the unknown from the ranks who is chosen as CEO because everyone likes him and he understands the company. He contrasts with the "star" CEO or coach from outside, who often tries to overturn the existing corporate culture: José Mourinho, for instance.

Star players obey Guardiola because they know they have no chance of forcing him out. They stick to the three-page "code of good conduct" he wrote before the season, stick to their zones on the field, and when the great striker Samuel Eto'o dares talk back at training, he is banished to the showers. Barcelona's players are so good that as long as they serve the collective, they will win prizes.

And that is the main lesson from Guardiola's work: he kept his best players. A year ago everyone expected Barcelona to sell the difficult, underperforming Eto'o and Thierry Henry. But Guardiola knew that football's scarcest resource is talent. Instead of buying lesser, more dutiful players, he dared to persevere with class.

Only one step remains in Guardiola's career path: displace Sant Jordi as the skinny patron saint of Catalonia.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Barcelona plans to offer Guardiola new contract
The Impressive Start of Guardiola
Guardiola Presented
Mourinho and Cruijff on list to replace Rijkaard


KluivertsBoots said...

Visca Barca!

This was a very astute move when it would have been easy to panic and go for a "name" like Mourinho.

Real could never pull off something like this.

Let's finish the deal.

tero said...

"Pep is GOD!" LOL

A great man,indeed

Fred_FCB said...

Very inspiring text

El Tiburon said...

Bloody brilliant!

ekar said...

All hail PEP

zealot said...

I am trying to view the full article, as I always prefer to read the unedited version, but it asked me to register. Is it free? BTW, you have such a broad variety of source Pep :D Who would have thought there is one article football in Financial Times :D

kamikaze kontiki said...

its free, zealot.

pep said...

It should be free, zealot.. Unless you're a secret Madrid fans, then you havve to register. So, I don't know. Maybe try again...

And I would even visit the Playboy website to provide you with the best Barça stories. It's all about the sacrifice!

ninzy said...

"locals still remember Guardiola as a skinny 15-year-old ballboy illegally running on to the pitch and hugging a player during a European semi-final in 1986.."

i saw this bit in a youtube vid. now when i see pep during matches, that scene would flash thru my mind.

do you think xavi will take the same path? i hope so.

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