You may already have realised that Pep Guardiola enjoys theatrical moments on the great football stages where the best players perform.
As a young boy – when not learning the intricate skills of dark pullover production – he would fold his legs (immediately forcing other family members to sit in the kitchen) and watch films on the TV until, literally, the cows came home. Cowboy films were his favourite and he especially enjoyed ‘Paella Westerns’ where dubbed voices in Native Catalonian would always outwit Naughty Spaniards from the capital who sought to take their lands – until, with their superior fire power, the Naughty Spaniards from the capital did take their lands.
As a good boy, Pep never forgot that.
One of his early screen heroes was Ronald Reagan as he fantasised that B-Movies meant those specially targeted at a Barcelona audience. In 1983 Ronald sought greater theatrical moments of his own and, now as President of the USA (a non-political position that can be paid for over four years), came up with the Strategic Defense Initiative which was effectively a defensive shield utilising a space-based anti-missile system. The media, never known to be down to earth, called it ‘Star Wars.’
As a film buff, Pep never forgot that.
Five years later, Pep became part of Johan Cruyff’s all-conquering ‘Dream Team’ which beat everyone all the time – including anything that moved in Madrid – and won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994.
As a bit of a dreamer, Pep never forgot that.
Education is a fine thing – as is a memory and a sense of history. Pep took these three elements in lieu of a hat-trick and brought them to Manchester City just over a year ago where he quickly realised that naughty people in red, largely from the south of England, sought to take what was theirs; that a defence would be required if they were to be repelled – along with the little blue Smurfs from one of his personal favourites: ‘A Bridge Too Far for Terry.’ He also recognised that dreams need money to make them come true, just as films need distributors.
It was clear to Pep and everyone else at The Etihad that Vincent’s best days were behind him and Pep could be heard humming the familiar refrain of ‘Manchester was never meant for one as beautiful as you’ as he spent countless hours trying to re-negotiate the BUPA bills which threatened to bankrupt the club. Nicolas Otamendi had, to be fair, a fine array of tattoos but, as a footballer, was only skin deep. Eliaquim Mangala was French – which Pep never fully understood – and played, like his compatriot at Liverpool, Mamadou Sakho, as a defender for France. Although not so bent over at the waist as Sakho, Pep still felt he was crepe – though something might have got lost in translation there.
Money, money, money flowed out of the club (Pep still loves Abba and firmly believes that Swedes are the most misunderstood vegetables in Europe) as he sought to buy anything that could move faster than John Stones, whilst playing out from the back and not looking, well, a bit silly.
Hart, Kolarov and Zabaleta were allowed to take their pensions while Gael Clichy was punished for having a girl’s name and dispatched to Turkey, just in time for Christmas.
Kyle Walker was bought after Pep lost a ‘winner takes all’ game of poker with Daniel Levy; Ederson arrived in goal after moving from Benfica for a lot of pounds but not that many Euros; Benjamin Mendy has arrived for a record fee for a defender and Pep has graciously overlooked the fact that he too plays for the French national team.
Finally, Pep went for a Brazilian, but discovered that Dani Alves had developed a curious passion for croissants and so he came back with another defender, Danilo, because he thought it would upset the Naughty Spaniards in Madrid and on condition that Mendy stated publicly that City were much better than Chelsea.
So, Pep has assembled a new defensive shield of stars, ready to go to war on the football fields and in the corporate sponsorship teepees of Europe. In Ronald Reagan’s case, the technology proved to be too complex and the scheme was effectively dropped. Perhaps Pep forgot about that bit and how long it might take to turn a galaxy into universal success?