When the shaven headed, perfectly suited Pep Guardiola called time upon his magically envied career as the celebrated manager of Barcelona Football Club, the media’s concentrated buzz and millions of words translated in to a simple, sombre, gaping feeling of loss for fans of the Blaugrana, and of football in general.
In his 4 year stint on top of the world, the Catalan’s success and ability was evident; 14 trophies equated to endless, priceless respect and a heroic, iconic status from his countless worldwide admirers.
Famously, the style of football exhibited was addictively omniscient, replicated by others and cursed by countless destroyed opponents. Superlatives were unable to translate the on-field wonders into adequate words and phrases. The novelistic fantasy seemed too good to be true; it appeared impossible for Guardiola’s genius Catalan empire to collapse.
However, last season’s La Liga ended with mixed emotions. From José Mourinho’s point of view, his Real Madrid side mentally and physically overcame one of, if not the, greatest teams of all time. In contrast, Cesc Fàbregas recently spoke the word many had feared to utter: ‘failure’. Despite the European Supercup, FIFA Club World Cup and Copa Del Rey victories, the re-united outcast is right. The once-tight grip of the two titles which really matter to a club like Barcelona has been relinquished, and, voluntarily, Guardiola’s charismatic presence went with it.
The man who defied the odds in literally every way possible has gone. In his wake, Francesc ‘Tito’ Vilanova has been attempting to fill the biggest boots there has ever been after emerging from Guardiola’s, and his own, shadow. After initially impressing yet suffering a dramatic fall at the first hurdle against Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercup, Barca’s fortune has upturned. 4 league victories out of 4, the eventual goal-scoring return of the game-changing, often unplayable David Villa – plus the added influence of a re-born Pedro – and fans are growing in admiration for an easily exhausted man who had a tumour removed from his throat as recently as under a year ago.
He may not be everyone’s idea of the most picturesque, artistic manager of such a scrutinised football club; the media’s instant reaction was genuine surprise when he was unveiled as Guardiola’s replacement. Sandro Rosell, the president of Barcelona (the whole sports club), was eager to keep faith in the home grown talent the Camp Nou and its unique La Masia system famously produces both in the managerial area as well as on the field.