Pep Guardiola has reaffirmed his commitment to Barcelona by putting pen to paper on a contract extension that will see him retain his position as head coach until June of 2012.
The deal was initially agreed on the 8th of February, but the manager officially confirmed the decision on Wednesday in the presence of a delighted President Sandro Rosell. The deal will see Guardiola enter the history books as the fourth-longest serving manager in the club’s history behind predecessor Frank Rijkaard, the legendary Johan Cruyff and Englishman Jack Greenwell, who had two spells in charge at the beginning of the 20th century.
Midfielder Xavi expressed his joy at the news: “This
Xavi also described his manager as a “vital cog” to the club and it is easy to see why: in the immediate aftermath of the Rijkaard era, Guardiola’s presence on the touchline has not only given Barcelona’s on-field fortunes a shot in the arm, but his influence off the field has had a profound effect on the daily life of the players at the club.
He has built on his experiences as a player, combined them with what he learnt while in charge of Barcelona’s B-team in the third division, and has fused them into his own unique style of management. One of the more radical changes has been an increased freedom for players on match-days. For home games, players train in the morning before being afforded the freedom of going home to relax so long as they return 90 minutes before kick off. When it comes to games away from the Camp Nou, the squad travels on the day of the game rather than spending long hours cooped up in hotels across the country.
Another interesting facet of life off the field is Guardiola’s insistence on having breakfast and lunch with his players as often as possible, to the extent that a special team of chefs has been hired to cater for the tailored needs of the modern footballer. This is reminiscent of another of Guardiola’s predecessors, Helenio Herrera, who had two spells in charge of the club, before and after his period of success with the European Cup-winning Inter side of the mid-to-late 1960s. Herrera was renowned for revolutionising player psychology and diet. He championed squad unity and held regular player retreats, and took a highly disciplined stance when it came to players’ dietary requirements, much like Guardiola today.
Comparisons between the two do not end there. Herrera is regarded as the first man to use advanced full-backs creating the modern wing-back. Under Guardiola, Barcelona have developed and polished the ‘tiki-taka’ style of play that has brought them and the Spanish national team so much success in recent years.
With the future of their manager now secured until the end of next season at least, Barcelona can now focus attentions on the trip to Mallorca on Saturday.