Madrid/Munich - Although Pep Guardiola does not give interviews, he never shirks questions at press conferences and one reporter who has seen him from the day he first set foot in FC Barcelona's youth academy is Paco Aguilar, deputy director of Catalan newspaper El Mundo Deportivo.
The 58-year-old has worked for the daily sports journal since 1991, before which he worked with the El Periódico de Catalunya. He has followed FC Barcelona for over three decades and is a respected figure in Spanish sports journalism.
Few know Guardiola better than Aguilar, who spoke at length with bundesliga.com about what FC Bayern Munich and German football can expect when the Pep era gets underway in Munich 26 June. Here's part 1 of that interview.
bundesliga.com: Paco Aguilar, what memories do you have of Pep Guardiola’s early days in the FC Barcelona youth team?
Aguilar: I can tell you a story which the, sadly, late FC Barcelona youth coordinator Oriol Tort once related to me. It was June 1984. Pep was only 13 when he set foot inside the famous "La Masía" youth academy. Tort was there to welcome him and when he saw the slightly-built Pep, he joked: “Your head's too big, son. You should be spending your time studying rather than playing football.” Pep certainly didn't take it the wrong way - Oriol Tort was always trying to lighten the atmosphere inside the academy. Guardiola certainly has a lot to thank Tort for.
bundesliga.com: You've been following FC Barcelona for decades. Who is the Pep Guardiola that you got to know, what kind of a person is he?
Aguilar: He was the kind of person who lived football and had no other activities besides football. Well, he was and still is very well-read and you would often see him with a book under his arm. He was certainly different to his team mates. Back then, we (journalists) were more a part of the team - we would travel with them, stay in the same hotels and we were a lot closer to the players. That has all changed nowadays, there's far more distance. He was always a chatty type, but he would always avoid stupid or banal discussions - you could talk with him about a whole range of things. As a footballer, he was like a sponge, soaking everything up for his own consideration. After games, he would often talk to the coaches - even Johan Cruyff told me that Pep was something like an assistant coach out on the pitch. He would talk with his team mates and tell them how they could do things better.
bundesliga.com: How did Pep Guardiola break into the FC Barcelona first team?
Aguilar: That was 1990. Pep was already doing very well in the reserves. At the time, Spanish international Luis Milla was playing in his position, but he surprisingly left to join bitter rivals Real Madrid CF. Johan Cruyff needed to act quickly and he practically threw Pep in at the deep end, but the transition was seamless.
bundesliga.com: Were there people at Barcelona who were against him - was there perhaps even some animosity there?
Aguilar: No, absolutely not with his team mates. But with the press, yes. There was one section of the media which was on his side, and another which wasn't. That was because he wasn't a yes-man and he wouldn't let people get away with writing any old rubbish about him. He was always very smart and he'd never give in. Even when there were lots of foreign players there, he was FC Barcelona's biggest role model and always highly regarded. He had very clear ideas an was never one for messing around. He was respected.
bundesliga.com: Who was he closest to within the team back then?
Aguilar: There were always groups of four: It was Guardiola, Abelardo, Sergi and Luis Enrique. They were all Spanish internationals and they are still close. Luis Enrique was even his successor as reserve team coach. But in general, it's not very easy to approach him. He doesn't let many people get close to him.
Interviewer: Miguel Gutierrez
In part two of our exclusive three-part interview, Aguilar talks about Guardiola's coaching career with FC Barcelona.