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Dublin: 10°C Thursday 29 October 2020

A day in the life of Pep Guardiola

Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam gives an inside account of the early part of manager’s reign with the Etihad outfit.

Pep Guardiola (file pic).
Pep Guardiola (file pic).
Image: PA

Updated at 14.22

THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE is an extract from Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam. 

Pep Guardiola once said that it is the early risers of this world who make their country unstoppable. He gets up at around 7:30am. Not that early, really.

He greets his family with good morning kisses and heads to a window to look out at the city below, and to see whether or not it’s raining. It usually is.

After breakfast with the kids, he sends them off to school, gets dressed and has a look at the press. Then, schedules permitting, he and his wife, Cristina, will head down to one of the trendy cafés close to Manchester Cathedral to have their first coffee of the day.

Then to work: The City Football Academy (CFA). En route to Clayton Lane he listens to Ràdio Cataluña or another Spanish station, RAC. He needs to hear the news from home.

He arrives as HQ is still stirring into life. He greets Stacy, the receptionist, and jogs up the 28 steps to the office he inherited from Manuel Pellegrini. On the wall is a maxim Pep wrote the day he moved in:

Primer és saber què fer.
Després, saber com fer-ho!
First, you have to know what to do.
Then, you have to know how to do it.

Beneath it, Maria, his eldest daughter, has added: Maria was here! Good luck! I love you!

Pep prefers to be in close proximity to his team and since taking over he has had this area completely redesigned. As well as redecorating his own room, he added an office for Ana Leyva, director of football Txiki Begiristain’s secretary, and working spaces for Carles Planchart (head of analysis), Mikel Arteta (assistant coach), Xabier Mancisidor (goalkeeping coach) and the first-team operations manager, Marc Boixasa (next door to Manel Estiarte).

The football analysis suite also occupies a far bigger area now and Pep will always pass technical staff already hard at work by the time he reaches his office and his own day starts.

Pep first visited City’s training ground back in March 2016, during an international break, and then again on 3 June. City CEO Ferran Soriano and Begiristain demanded those visits be kept as quiet as possible and only three other staff were involved: Joan Patsy, Begiristain’s right-hand man, plus David Quintana (in charge of player care) and Begiristain’s secretary Amaia Díaz – a characterful Navarran who was key in helping them prepare the arrival of their visitor, codenamed ‘The German’.

The last two have both since left the club. Díaz escaped to San Domingo, looking for adventure and a new direction in life.

Quintana was forced to leave because of ill health. The player liaison manager, who had key responsibility for supporting new arrivals, was a particular loss for the club. As Begiristain’s trusted lieutenant he was key to Guardiola’s successful adaptation to his new city and it was Quintana who set out, in the early hours of March 16, 2016 (the day after Bayern eliminated Juventus from the Champions League), on a top-secret mission to Germany.

“Go to Munich but tell no one,” Begiristain ordered him. “It seems we’ve got a problem with The German.”

They did indeed. In Munich, the Guardiola family had lived in a spacious mansion on Sophienstrasse. Pep demanded accommodation of a similar standard in Manchester and the issue was in danger of becoming a deal-breaker. Quintana and Pep met over a leisurely three-hour lunch in a local Vietnamese restaurant. Cristina, Pep’s three kids, plus his agent, Josep María Orobitg, and Orobitg’s wife Núria were also at the table. Lunch was spent discussing key elements of the club’s organisation, infrastructure, players . . . but the issues around the Guardiolas’ new home remained unresolved.


An anxious Begiristain demanded a full debrief on Quintana’s return.

“So, what did you tell him?”

“The plain truth: that there basically isn’t anything like that in Manchester.”

The problem was that Pep was refusing to live anywhere but the city centre and there just wasn’t the right kind of property there to suit him. It didn’t exist. Begiristain could see all his plans going up in smoke. The deal to bring Pep to City was under threat. Quintana, though, was still upbeat.

“I just told him, ‘No worries; if we have to, we’ll build you what you want. It might take a few more months, but we’ll make it happen.’”

And so it was that the Guardiola family ended up renting a luxury apartment in the Deansgate area of Manchester while they waited for the building work on their new home to be completed. It took a little longer than predicted, but eventually they were able to move in.

At least once a day, Pep talks to Manel Estiarte. He’ll then pop into his office, kick off his shoes before strolling down to the cafeteria in his socks, chatting to people on the way.

Today Silvia Tremoleda, a former triathlete and City’s respected sports nutritionist, is there, supervising the day’s menus. She usually gets to the club around 7am so that she can use the gym before work.

Pep grabs a hot chocolate and heads back to his office, where he starts taking notes on some match footage he has on his computer. He needs to speak to Begiristain but is told that he’s not back from a scouting trip yet. He’s due any minute though.

This morning Pep is in relaxed mode. City’s next game isn’t going to be too complicated. They’re already well prepared, the team’s playing well — everyone here is pretty chilled.

Pep is having a laugh on the phone with David Torras, an old friend and the director of communication at Girona, the Spanish club part-owned by City Football Group.

Pep hangs up when Planchart appears with some reports on the opposition. The pair are clearly in agreement about the kind of football they’re likely to encounter. Planchart, Pep’s chief performance analyst, isn’t worried.

“We don’t need to take a lot of time over the analysis this week. They are a pretty predictable side – they don’t hold any surprises for us.”

Next up: a meeting with the club doctors. One of the players has a knee injury and Pep wants to know if an operation is needed. He knows that if they continue to play him, the problem could get much worse. Pep has already consulted the Barcelona-based doctor, Ramón Cugat, who is an expert in knee injuries. He’s also discussed the player’s situation with fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura on his daily tour of the CFA.

brighton-and-hove-albion-v-manchester-city-premier-league-amex-stadium Pep Guardiola has won the Premier League title twice with Man City. Source: Gareth Fuller

The medics know that they have to be on the ball. “He’ll hit you with the most unexpected questions,” says one member of the medical team. “Like today, he asked me if we’d compared the current scans with the ones we did at the start of the season.”

“I know bugger all about whether it’s a good idea to compare scans,” Guardiola laughs.

“It was Loren [Buenaventura] who gave me that tip. But if it makes me look good, so be it.”

The injury is no laughing matter and Pep wants to avoid jeopardising the player’s participation in the upcoming World Cup. He’ll have a chat with the player and they will make the decision together.

One by one, the technical team arrive for the pre-training planning session. As they take their places around the meeting table, Estiarte hands the coach a pile of shirts for signing.

Pep is a patron of the Johan Cruyff Foundation and this is one of the ways he supports them.

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First item on the agenda: have all the players arrived? As usual, everybody except Yaya Touré. Pep knows exactly who the early birds will have been: Fernandinho, Gündoğan and Brahim Díaz are always first in. Then David Silva or Kun Agüero. Benjamin Mendy will have strolled in at the last minute, without a care in the world, and asked the receptionist for some jelly beans.

Everyone is rushing about. Players sprint up and down stairs from the gym to the cafeteria for breakfast, and from there to a session on the massage table. Meanwhile, Pep casts a beady eye over today’s weigh-in results. Every player has been given detailed instructions regarding diet and weight, carefully calibrated by the club dietitian according to height and muscle mass. Pep’s a stickler in this regard and there’ll be no mercy for anyone who has failed to stick to the agreed parameters.

Over in the main hall, the Amazon team are setting up their cameras. The club has granted full access to a documentary crew who will tell the story of Guardiola’s second season at the club, to be released on Amazon’s own streaming service. The guys from the in-house media team, City TV, are waiting for Gündoğan, who’s doing some promo work today.

Soriano is typing feverishly on his tablet and simultaneously talking on the phone when Begiristain arrives and heads straight up the stairs to greet Pep, who is outside his office having a laugh with Arteta, his assistant coach.

Txiki’s got news: “Joan [Patsy] arrives tonight. Let’s have dinner. We need to talk.”

“That might be a problem. I’ve got tickets for the theatre with Cris and the kids. Maybe I could cancel that. They’d kill me though.”

“No, don’t cancel. It’ll wait till tomorrow.”

“You’re a lifesaver. Let’s do breakfast then.”

“Breakfast it is,” says Txiki. “I’ve loads to tell you.”

soccer-barclays-premier-league-manchester-city-v-tottenham-hotspur-etihad-stadium Manchester City's Director of football Txiki Begiristain. Source: Mike Egerton

Today is a light training session. It is the final stretch of Pep’s second season and the championship is assured. However, it’s been a long haul and Buenaventura focuses on short, intense toning exercises which won’t overtire the players. Pep and Domè Torrent, then his assistant manager, have already run through exercises to practise bringing the ball out from the back. Arteta has some specific work to do with Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling, while Mancisidor gives the keepers a more demanding session.

As always, training is closed to anyone except key personnel: the physios, medics, kit men, coaches, Estiarte and Begiristain. Pep does make an exception on Saturdays and Sundays, when he will sometimes bring his son Màrius along. The coach will also consider requests to attend the first training session after a match, although he’s much more welcoming following a win. The Scotland rugby coach Gregor Townsend has already visited this year. He was initially allocated just 10 minutes, but ended up spending an hour with Guardiola.

Pep always leaves his office and involves himself in training to one degree or another, no matter the weather; today there’s a biting wind whipping round the training round. Pep is out there on the pitches even when he’s resting his key players. “The players that don’t tend to get a game actually need more attention,” he says. “You have to work even harder to make sure they’re okay.”

As he comes down to training today, Pep catches sight of some unusual activity on one of the side pitches and realises that it’s the City disability team. When he calls his players over for the rondos, he tells them: “Today we’re going to do something a bit different. Let’s go over and watch these youngsters play. They’re amazing. We should be giving thanks for our own good fortune.”

The City dressing room is oval. Pep wanted it designed like that so that the players are able to interact easily. The layout means that they’re much less likely to huddle in small groups (as they did in the Barça dressing room, which is divided into sections by columns and where players can end up almost completely cut off from each other).

A line from one of Tony Walsh’s poems is written across one of the walls. “Some are born here, some drawn here, but we all call it home.” Another Pep touch. However, the coach never goes into the dressing room, except on matchdays. “It’s for the players. It’s sacred.”

Team talks happen in a mini lecture room on the first floor, beside the cafeteria. At the end of training Buenaventura and the club doctor check out the data garnered by the apparatus which measures the players’ biometrics and the physios get on with the obligatory massages.

Reggaeton booms out of the dressing room, where the kit men make a valiant attempt to tidy everything away while the players laugh and joke around them. Bernardo Silva, frequently, is the butt of the jokes.

Pep takes himself off for a shower and a change of clothes and grabs the chance to call his wife.

Over lunch Pep chats with his staff about the training session: what worked, what didn’t, who caught on the fastest and mastered the new tactics.

manchester-city-v-manchester-united-premier-league-etihad-stadium Noel Gallagher before a Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium. Source: Mike Egerton

The one trait that Pep appears to seek, or develop, in those around him is leadership. Begiristain sees this as one of his friend’s main strengths. “He surrounds himself with people who are not scared to disagree with him, to give their own point of view. After that he does what he wants anyway, but he always asks for their input first.”

Over lunch, Buenaventura’s data helps settle an argument over a player who is showing great promise.

“The lad nearly killed himself at training today.”

“Really?” says Pep.

“I told you,” exclaims Torrent.

And with that, the unsuspecting player is one step closer to becoming a regular starter. If there are no burning issues to discuss and lots of work piling up in the office, Pep will have lunch at his desk. Something simple, like a slice of tortilla followed by a glass of hot water (somebody once told him it aids digestion). He’ll make his notes, pore over his computer screen. If he’s got a lot to catch up on, especially on the eve of a game or when it’s too cold to go outside, he’ll put on some music, light an incense stick and shut himself up in his office for the rest of the day. The players are long gone.

His staff are hard at it too (getting kit ready, sorting injuries out, preparing reports on the upcoming opponent), but by 5pm everyone else is packing up, ready to go home. Pep works on, with the incense still burning and his music (Oasis, Manel or Carla Bruni) in the background.

The walls of his office are kept white so that ideas can be scribbled on them. In the centre of one wall there is a caricature of Noel Gallagher and a verse from his song, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.

Pep doesn’t keep a lot of personal things in his office, but one of his prized possessions is the Cruyff statue (a gift from the Johan Cruyff Foundation) on his desk. Other than that, there are two computers, pencils, piles of paper and, to the left of his chair, a wall chart displaying the week’s plan of work. It’s all about the next game. Just beside it, he’s taken a black marker pen to the white wall and scrawled out Marcelo Bielsa’s words:

The moments in my life when I have improved are closely related to failure; the moments in my life when I have regressed are closely related to success. Being successful deforms us as human beings, it relaxes us, it plays tricks on us, it makes us worse individuals, it feeds our egos.

Failure is the complete opposite, it forms us, makes us more solid, brings us closer to our convictions, makes us more coherent. I was happy when I was involved with amateur football, I was happy when I matured into the job that I love. I have a deep love for football, for the game, for the corner kick, for the narrow space, for the long line on the pitch, for the football itself. Yet I despise all the rest. Let me be clear. The joy that comes with winning lasts about five minutes and what’s left is a gaping void and a loneliness that’s hard to describe. Never allow failure to affect your self-esteem. When you win, understand that praise and accolades are deceptive for they feed our ego and deform us. When you lose, the opposite happens. What really matters is the nobility of the resources at your disposal.

The day after a game, Pep usually goes home to eat with his wife, but if the weather’s good or there’s a lot on, he’ll stay in the office until late. On grey winter days, when it’s dark by 3:30pm, he’ll head home as early as possible, sit down at his dining table, switch on the computer and have a glass of white wine or a bottle of beer. Then he’ll get back down to work.

Today he’s behind the wheel of his black Mercedes by 6pm. Guardiola has a reputation from his Barcelona days of being a hapless driver, and this is the fourth car he has owned since coming to Manchester. His wing mirrors don’t survive for long, and he’s also managed to fill a diesel Range Rover with petrol and mangle a silver Bentley.

The drive home is just 15 minutes. Tonight he is off to see the musical Shrek with Cristina and the kids. The family make the journey to the theatre on foot and talk about how many homeless people they see. It’s incomprehensible to them.

On the way home they have a bite to eat in a Spanish restaurant, Tapeo & Wine. They enjoyed the show. The title is almost in the bag. The family are all okay. Pep’s had a good day at the office.

Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam is published by Polaris. More info here.

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