Mart Perarnau (Barcelona, 1955) He has a Master’s degree from Guardiola. And writing ‘God save Pep’ (2023) the former athlete has not left any unfinished business. His new book narrates the seven years of the Catalan coach at Manchester City. And there are seven MARCA questions to understand the Pep phenomenon… seen by those who know the most about Pep.
Ask. First. What is a standard Guardiola day in Manchester like?
Answer.He gets up quickly, and listens to radio programs for half an hour, usually Catalan, from a friend, like Jordi Bast, RAC1, etc… while he has breakfast. He arrives at the training center early, but he is not the first. Juanma Lillo and Manel Estiarte arrive first. But he is the third or fourth. There is a coaching staff meeting to see what he does that day, who is injured, who is recovered… and based on that the training is closed. Pep is always on the field in training, although Lorenzo Buenaventura and the physical trainers act first. But Pep never, he never leaves the field. Then there is a post-training coaching staff meeting and specific individual meetings in case there is something very specific to explain. Then, he always eats at the Ciudad Deportiva with all the staff and the entire squad. In the afternoon, meetings with a specific player, because you have to watch videos of the last game or what is going to be done in the next one. Later, meeting of the coaching staff about next training sessions or the next rival. They leave him in pieces, due to cuts, except for some rival that Pep wants to see from scratch if he doesn’t know him. But if he is a Premier League player with whom he has played 15 times, then no, just cuts. And at 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. he goes home to have dinner and watch some TV or review videos. He watches the Champions League, for example, and always the Premier League. But if there’s a City game the next day, it’s not usually.
Q. Second. Is there a before and after in the Premier with Guardiola?
R. . He has modified very strong parameters of the game, but not only Pep. There are other very powerful influences, from Klopp to Bielsa. The statistics of how in this last decade the direct game has been reduced in favor of the passing game is brutal. The number of crosses from the wing to the center of the area has been reduced; the number of shots from outside the area has been reduced; the number of shots fired within the area has increased; The ball output has multiplied… This shows a clear change in the way of playing. But I would clarify that it is not just because of Pep, although his percentage of influence is high.
Q. Third. Do you believe more in ‘Guardiolista’ journalism, in ‘anti-Guardiolista’ journalism or in none of them because you don’t know them?
R. I don’t believe one or the other. I see very dogmatic labels for and against; much exaggeration in either position. For example, when talking about aesthetics… well, I have known Pep as I have known him, he deeply shocks me, because I think that Pep always wants to win and win… and he is not worried about aesthetics. I see labels of that type and they shock me deeply, both in guardiolist journalism and in old-school journalism. Both are very far from reality. Pep is simpler.
Q. Fourth. Does Guardiola change a lot in privacy?
R. Personally, he is more affectionate; Professionally he is just as we see him: transparent, both when he is right and when he is wrong. Sometimes he says something that comes from inside him and… he’s wrong and that’s it. Then, apologize… But, personally, he is very, very affectionate, very close, very, very normal, very… yes! Much more than it seems. After living close to him for 10 years, I know that it is very hard to be in the absolute limelight every day, in front of the flashes. That’s very hard and in the end you have to try to protect yourself a little bit because, otherwise, you get slaps, disappointments, everything.
Q. Fifth. Why did it take so long for Juanma Lillo and Pep to work together?
R.In the past, Juanma was very influential ideologically in terms of contributing ideas, since Pep was a player. We all know the anecdote about the Oviedo field, when Juanma was coach there and Guardiola played against them at Bara. It was always an ideological influence from a distance. I don’t know if there was any reason why they never went their separate ways. Maybe because Juanma was previously the head coach and, of course, you don’t hire another first, an equal.
When Pep realized that Juanma was willing to play another role, they got together and said: ‘He must be my perfect right arm.’ How much does it influence the present? I think a lot, football-wise and emotionally, in terms of bringing serenity and calm to Pep. Lillo is the one who jokes in the technical staff, he is a great unifier of very different people. Juanma creates a comfortable environment so that everyone feels comfortable in their role. Estiarte said it: ‘Juanma acts as the coach’s coach.’ And it is as is. He is the one who has been preparing Pep to take this new step that he has taken for a few years, with less of a tactical component and more of a relationship with players, coaching staff, his behavior… How to face tough situations of defeats, of losing the final…. Ah you can see Juanma’s hand a lot. Very much.
P. Sixth. Do you think that, after the Champions League, Pep’s work at City is finished?
R. I think that, as a work, it is completed, and I think it is his most difficult work. Bara’s was more brilliant, more spectacular in play, etc., but there he had Messi and company. In Manchester they have great players, but one step below Barcelona. Achieving something similar with less talent seems to me to be a more complicated task in a Premier League that is very complicated. I think that all we are seeing now is trying to add more icing to a cake that is finished with that City Champions League.
P. Seventh. Do you think Guardiola rules out coaching Spain for sporting or political reasons?
R. I think not sports, but social, yes. Because political reasons within football would make little sense. You do not lead a team by politics, that is, because you are favorable to this or that one’s policy. I think I would rule it out more for social reasons. There is an obvious rejection, there is a very significant part of the Spaniards who think something different from Pep and, therefore, there is a rejection, but it is something social. I don’t think it’s political. I also don’t think it would enter the mind of the Spanish Federation to count on him, but for the same reason. It would be provoking an unnecessary conflict, neither on one side nor on the other. Why are you going to get into that? I see it like that.
Extra question. What grade do you think Pep gives to his book?
R. He has neither told me nor read it nor is he going to read it, as he did not read the previous two. Pep doesn’t read his, the ones that talk about him. He has never wanted to talk about his books. I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you the note. I am a very perfectionist, and I always find fault with it. Guardiola promised me that in 20 years he would read it to him. So… in 20 years he will answer this question. [Risas].
‘God save Pep’, a true portrait of Guardiola’s City
After ‘Herr Pep’ (2014), ‘Pep Guardiola: The metamorphosis’ (2016) and ‘The tactical evolution of football 1863 – 1945’ (2022), Perarnau presents ‘God save Pep’ portraying his time in English football.