The block in the crowd said it best until Pep Guardiola said it better. In the midst of the noise around Romareda, the collective whisper of disbelief, came a short and simple sentence that concerned only audibility and evoked the highest euology. It was March, ten years ago, and Lionel Messi had just scored his third goal against Real Zaragoza when someone on the podium spat out a fool in disbelief. When Guardiola heard this, she turned and smirked, leaning against the bench as if he were at a bar. “Yes,”; he agreed, “if it wasn’t for Messi, I would be training in the Second Division.”
Instead, he was the winner of the heights. As for Messi, he was already the best player in the world, maybe sometimes. It is remarkable that in ten years it is still. The best I’ve ever seen and ever seen, Guardiola said repeatedly. And yet the coach proved to be nothing more than a happy recipient of genius, which was part of his job. Together, they created probably the best team he was here and made him the best footballer.
For this reason, Messi picked up the phone and dialed the Guardiola number, eight years after the company split and five years since the last European Cup victory.
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That’s why Guardiola, who still hasn’t worked with a player like him or won the Champions League since they were together at Wembley in 2011, replied that if his desire to play for Man City was real, he would try to make it happen. He always insisted he wanted to, for Messi to stay in Barcelona, but if Messi was determined to leave, it was different. So Guardiola hung up and went to do just that.
Time will tell if this will happen, but there are many reasons to try it. Last but not least, the memories of who they were and the hope that they will be again. About how happy they were and how much they achieved.
Not so long ago, Guardiola told Catalunya Radio about the discovery of Messi. “Someone in the youth system told me it existed [lad] who was very good. He was very small, but he dribbled well and scored a lot of goals, “he recalled. The first time he saw him in his body, he happened to be in a store at El Prat Airport.” Small, shy, “Guardiola recalled, thinking. If this child could be really as good as they say he soon found out he couldn’t, he could be better.
“I saw him [play] personally, he thought, “We’ll win it all with this guy,” Guardiola said. And that happened almost everything.
Together they collected 14 trophies in four years, the last of which was the Copa del Rey at the Vicente Calderón in May 2012. Messi shot that night as well as in the final of the two European Cups he won. He scored 50 league goals last season.
fiftyHe has never scored so many goals in a season.
In 2011, they were so good against Manchester United that in the final minutes, one opponent begged for mercy. They defeated Madrid 6-2 and 5-0. One night, when they were building the first of those Madrid games, in Bernabéo, Guardiola had an idea. It was late, but he called Messi and asked him to come to the training ground to explain what the fake nine was. Guardiola built the structure, and Messi made sure it worked. Football has never been the same.
In 2012, Guardiola was gone. Dissatisfied with the same regime that Messi eventually chaired, who wanted to leave, and the club’s constant catastrophic decline, Guardiola was tired and burned. And so were the players. Things were wrong; there was tension, the relationship did not break, but shook at the edges. As Dani Alves states in the documentary “Take The Ball Pass The Ball”, once it was suitable for a coach from the top of the stands, he would no longer voluntarily ascend to such a height.
When he left, Guardiola said they had to go or they would hurt each other. It is better to have a clean break and the word “break” was the word. It felt like something was over. Many players looked lost at the farewell press conference. Some of them realized what they were missing. They may also realize that they didn’t realize it until it was too late. Messi did not come, some perceived him as evidence that his relationship with the Guardiol had deteriorated, but something he later justified by not wanting to reveal his emotions, sitting in front of the cameras.
All I care about about Messi is that he’s happy, Guardiola once said. It was a measure of how important Messi, the player around whom the team had formed, was, and it was worth it. “Is there a player more complete than Messi?” He asked once. “It simply came to our notice then. Messi is the most complete player in the world. He can do anything: he connects with his teammates, he combines, he opens up space. ”He has evolved over the years. There were many Messi stages. However, it all starts with the fact that this idea was born out of the recognition and celebration of generational talent.
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At the beginning, the Guardiola opposed the Barcelona Committee and the legal decision to fight Messi. Barcelona went to court with the Argentine FA to avoid losing Messi during the 2008 Olympics. However, Guardiola saw how important Messi was, and despite Barca winning the case, he still told him to go to the games. Messi returned with a gold medal and grateful. Guardiola got it, at least for a while.
It wasn’t always easy; messi it was not always easy. The men who followed Guardiola can vouch for this. Hypercompetitive, more than people sometimes realize, because they see someone to whom it all looks effortless can also be sensitive. There could be flashes of anger that were not always well expressed or could be easily interpreted, but were here and hard for everyone. The rest of the players had to be good enough, even though no one could be that good.
Extremely challenging, Messi could be downloaded, looking quite often. People around him tried to guess and follow what they thought he was thinking. The culture of the club has become more and more conditioned by him – and even more so in recent years. Guardiola understood or tried to strike a balance. It was also not easy. In his book on Messi, Sebastian Fest claims that one day during the first few weeks Zlatan Ibrahimovic spent at the club in 2009, he sent a text message to Messi Guardiol, who was sitting in front of the team bus, from behind. The report went in several directions: I see I’m not important to this anymore, so …
But it was Guardiola who left when he left Messi as he headed for Bayern. The relationship is over and better days have been seen. Of course, there was respect and recognition, which will increase with distance and over the following seasons. At every opportunity he received, Guardiola spoke cordially and cordially of Messi; Messi spoke rarely.
In reality, however, it was not what Guardiola said that best describes how good Messi was, aware that words always failed. “Don’t try to explain it to him, don’t try to write about him; just look at him, “he said once – and he did. In 2015, he sat in the stands at Camp Nou, just a fan next to his father and one of his assistant coach, Manuel Estiarte, one night watching Messi’s nutmeg James Milner draw a stunned, ticklish “oh” from the crowd. Few know Messi better, but Guardiola was also taken aback: the cameras caught him, blew him in the face and buried his face in his hands, laughing at the absurdity of it all, his father cracking beside him. The sheared football manager, the serial winner who saw it all, was dizzying when Estiarte’s mouth opened and Milner sat on the lawn.
Not long after, in 2015, the two men met in the Champions League when Bayern drew Barca. “We haven’t spoken since [he left]”Messi admitted on the eve of the game and quickly corrected himself to say, ‘Oh, yes, we came across each other in the Ballon d’Or, but all we did was say hello, and besides, we don’t have it yet.’ When we were here, we had a good relationship, but [nothing] since then. “
When asked about his former player and what plans he had to prevent from beating Bayern, Guardiola said, “You can’t stop him. If he is what he is, if he plays as he can, you can’t stop him. We do not defend ourselves against talent of this scale. Teams have tried thousands of ways to stop it, and that doesn’t make any difference. We have to make sure he doesn’t get the ball, close the way to the goal. However, there is no defense system that can stop it and no coach. “
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The next night, he turned out to be right. Messi did Messi things and let Jerome Boateng fall perfectly on the lawn. A few months later, he was European champion again and Guardiola was not. Neither has been since, and yet they have both been recognized as the world’s best since then, although neither has reached exactly the same height without the other. If Messi could not initially think that he would miss Guardiola, as well as Guardiola, that he missed him, recognition could increase only with absence and time, difficulty in replicating these achievements: good memories far away, but far from fading, bad ones disappearing from overshadowed by the excellent level they have reached.
Messi once called Guardiola the “best teacher,” something he would be more aware of when others came and went, unable to control the classroom, or get results from them. Guardiola watched as Messi did things no one else could do. Better than anyone else, he also understood why Messi couldn’t do more. Guardiola didn’t know that compared to Messi. Messi knew nothing compared to the Guardiol – a realization that was being built with the time that was fast approaching and crystallized from European elimination.
There was a mutual need. It wasn’t always there, or at least they didn’t always realize it – Messi didn’t either – but they were now. Once the idea came to mind, it simply could not be rejected. How could they not do you want to collaborate again? How could they not remember better times, longing for them? Guardiola and Messi made each other; why wouldn’t they reach for a second chance, not give her a chance?
He bowed his head again from the Champions League, ashamed and humiliated, Messi turned for help. Freed from Barcelona, once a burden has been lifted, he can begin again, learn, and change the context of what to prove and manage. Certainly under pressure, but without sole responsibility, and with the help of a coach he knows, he can lead him, one he will listen to and be able to advise him from now on more than ever before. A good enough coach who believes he will fix it, the man who accepts him will understand and take care of him, as always. The one who will also demand will bring the best of the little, shy boy he first saw almost 20 years ago. He realizes that with the delay that these are the safest hands he will put his last years into, knowing that there is nothing besides.
Lionel Messi couldn’t end his career like that, and Pep Guardiola couldn’t.