The final piece in the jigsaw has been found for Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who is now brimming with confidence ahead of the new season.
The protracted signing of Cesc Fabregas was the final piece in the jigsaw for Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who is now brimming with confidence ahead of the new season.
A homegrown idol on the pitch during the 1990s, Guardiola has had a remarkable start to his coaching career at the Camp Nou and his achievements in the dug-out look likely to out-shine those as a player.
Rarely do great players go on to achieve similar success as managers but Guardiola’s assiduous and thoughtful mentality always made him a candidate to buck the trend.
He is now looking for his fourth straight championship to equal the success of Johan Cruyff’s famous Dream Team of the early 1990s, of which he was an integral part.
Guardiola is too humble to make comparisons and says that Cruyff’s team achieved more than his ever could.
In his mind, the Dream Team were the innovators of open, attacking football, but in terms of success he already has two Champions League crowns, compared to Cruyff’s single European Cup won in 1992.
“After the three years that we have just had and what these players have done it would be impossible not to be optimistic. If we are not confident now, I don’t know when we would be,” Guardiola says.
In contrast to the general strategy of the club, Barca have chosen to bring in established players in Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez rather than promoting from the reserves, and youth products Jeffren Suarez and Bojan Krkic have both been shown the door.
For Fabregas, though, it is a return home, after he was born and raised in Catalonia and spent time at the Barca academy before joining Arsenal aged 16.
Meanwhile, Sanchez possesses the pace and skill to fit in perfectly in attack.
They boost a squad that appeared thin at times last season and Fabregas could slot into their three-man midfield alongside Sergio Busquets and Xavi, with Andres Iniesta pushed into attack.
Guardiola has surprisingly not moved to strengthen the back line despite Carles Puyol’s injury problems, and that could give an opening to Javier Mascherano in defence.
The Argentine partnered Gerard Piqué in central defence in several games at the end of last season, including the 3-1 humbling of Manchester United in the Champions League final.
Barca started this season as they finished the last, by getting one over their eternal rivals Real with a 5-4 aggregate victory in a stormy Spanish Super Cup.
Real were already gunning for revenge after finishing as league runners-up and losing to the Catalan side in the Champions League semi-finals, although they did beat them in the final of the King’s Cup.
“They have had an excellent pre-season and won all their games, while we have concentrated more on resting,” said Guardiola.
“If we had wanted to arrive at this point with more training sessions then we could have done but it wasn’t our plan.
“What we learnt from last season is that you cannot think about games which are still to come as what is important is what is happening now and who you are going to play next.
“You shouldn’t think about it but just play, but of course to beat Madrid is very difficult.
“Last season it was a very big challenge for us and I was happy how it worked out. Hopefully it will be the same again.”—AFP