At Barcelona, he exemplified all the features of Plato’s proverbial philosopher king. Born and bred in Catalunya’s playing fields, he rose to dominance with poetic displays in midfield. Then he left, only to return as manager and build probably the greatest club side in history. Certainly, the greatest this side of the century thus far.
Bayern Munich however provides a totally different challenge to Pep Guardiola.
It is a club steeped in different traditions to those of Barcelona. That means that whereas he had little revision to do at Barcelona, he must learn the whole book once again in Bavaria. He does not come as a returning saviour. To some, he is even considered a nuisance — a man who may disrupt the fluency of Jupp Heynckes legacy.
But it is a challenge which Guardiola deems himself ready for. He certainly wanted such a challenge – as his behaviour in 2011 attested to Bayern’s directors. At the same time, there is no denying that this has been a Bayern Munich that has risen on the philosophies inspired by Guardiola.
Possession and pressing are Bayern’s strong points even though they have done it with more incision. In last season’s Champions League semi-final, they dispatched of Barcelona in what was interpreted as the changing of the guard. It thus seems apt that even though Guardiola was not there, his past team had succumbed to his future team.
However, what Guardiola does will be judged on whether he will maintain the same rhythm and momentum that was built up in the run to the Champions League title last season. Dominance in Germany has not been a secret but it was their rise to become Europe’s most elite that fascinated. This will be Guardiola’s greatest challenge.
As such, he must aim to become the first club to defend the European Cup in the Champions League era. That, while added to his two triumphs as Barcelona manager, would elevate him to three personal titles as manager. Only Bob Paisley has the same tally in the competitions illustrious history.
Accomplishing that this season may thus prove to be his greatest achievement yet. As such, he must think heavily about how best to go about it. That is where the philosopher in him must be at its best.