A young Pep Guardiola receives instructions from Barcelona "Dream Team" coach Johann Cruyff
A young Pep Guardiola receives instructions from Barcelona "Dream Team" coach Johann Cruyff

Guardiola the player: An "angelic" midfielder

Munich - With the clock ticking down on Pep Guardiola's arrival in Munich, bundesliga.com is taking an in-depth look at the Catalan's career thus far, analysing what the German game can expect and reflecting on his astonishing spell in charge of FC Barcelona.

"Angelic" style

Now our spotlight turns to Guardiola's career as a player, which set the tone for later triumphs. Indeed, having won his first piece of silverware, a Spanish championship, at the age of 20, he was a man well accustomed to success by the time the 14 titles started piling up during his coaching tenure at Barca.

Born in Santpedor in the heart of Catalonia, Guardiola made his first-team debut for Barcelona on 16 December 1990 at the age of 19. At that stage his boyish physique had yet to fill out, but the head coach at the time, Johann Cruyff, swiftly recognised his talent, remarking that although he was "physically weak", he also had "great vision and fantastic technique".

An introverted figure away from the pitch, the defensive midfielder became a dominant leader on it. Jorge Naval, a former Barcelona scout, recalls seeing Guardiola play as an 11-year-old and described his style as "angelic". However, as the player's mother believed he was still too young to move away from home, it was not until he turned 13 that Guardiola joined the club's now famous youth academy, La Masia.

Dream Team

It wasn't long before the young Guardiola made a name for himself and such was his precocious brilliance at youth level that Cruyff created the 'pivot' position especially for him in the first team - effectively a deep-lying playmaker occupying the space usually filled by a holding midfielder.

That is not to say Guardiola's transition to the seniors was an overnight process. After making his debut in 1990, he played four times in the ensuing title-winning campaign, with 26 outings following in 1991/92 alongside fellow Dream Team members such as Michael Laudrup and Ronald Koeman. The result was a second league title, capped off by Barca's first-ever European Cup success and a gold medal with Spain at the Barcelona Olympics.

Global tour

By the time Guardiola left his homeland for Italy at the age of 31, he had played 362 competitive matches in ten years as a professional at Barcelona, scoring 13 goals and winning another four Spanish championships, as well as the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1997.

Things did not go quite so well though at Brescia Calcio. In 2001 he was suspended for four months after testing positive for use of the banned substance Nandrolone. Guardiola protested his innocence and eventually cleared his name in 2009. After a short stint with AS Roma, he departed Italy for Qatar with just 28 Serie A appearances to show for his time in Italy.

New chapter

The 47-time Spanish international hung up his boots following a spell in Mexico with Dorados de Sinaloa, where he also attended coaching courses in Axopocan.

That paved the way for him to cut his teeth on the touchline in charge of Barcelona's reserve side in 2007, before replacing Frank Rijkaard in the first-team dugout a year later. What happened next has gone down in history and now FC Bayern Munich are relishing the prospect of Guardiola repeating his recipe for success in Bavaria.

Maximilian Lotz