To his acolytes, he is one of football’s greatest coaches; a tactical genius, innovator, motivator.
To his detractors, he is a charlatan, who lucked into a talented Barcelona squad and backed by enormous bank balances, has achieved no more than he should.
Whatever the truth is – and it is somewhere between the two – Pep Guardiola is not a coach about whom you can have no opinions.
He will add this season’s Premier League title to his already impressive list of honours. If the formbook holds, it will be confirmed at the Mancunian derby, added the final ignominy to Jose Mourinho’s season.
The Portuguese, once a close friend and ally, is now an enemy and the pair manage clubs in the same city with a rivalry as intense as that of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Mourinho took the opportunity in his press conference ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final with Brighton to downplay Guardiola’s achievements in England. Reeling off a list of players who were signed before the Catalan took over. Mourinho pointed out they were “investments from the past, not from the last two years.”
It’s one of the Portuguese’s famed spurious arguments. Rivals are never praised but his own triumphs? They are all his own work, no matter the standard of the squad he inherited.
He’s not alone in downplaying Guardiola’s success. Arsene Wenger, usually the most gracious of managers, revealed he didn’t think Pep had “raised the bar” in English football.
“Because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe,” the Arsenal boss said. “We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”
No, not you, Pep; not even the professional courtesy of congratulating the Manchester City boss on what is a fabulous season.
Every player acknowledges the Catalan’s way of coaching improves their game. From technique through tactics, each player is delivering more than expected and in team play which is seemingly unaffected by the curse of the modern game, squad rotation.