Football’s Ultimate Man-Manager: 7 Players Who Thrived Under Pep Guardiola

“All the managers in the world, it doesn’t matter how good you are, if your players don’t understand what you are looking for or what you want, it makes no sense” (Pep Guardiola).

With 21 major honours – including two UEFA Champions Leagues – to his name, Pep Guardiola has become one of the most successful and influential managers of the last decade. 

The aforementioned success is derivative of the current Manchester City manager’s unrivalled ability to bring out the best in his players, and nurture the talents of fledgling and faltering talents alike. 

Below is a list of seven players – past and present – who thrived under the guidance of Pep Guardiola… 

7. Pedro (Barcelona 2008-2012)

Promoted from Barcelona B to the first team by Pep Guardiola in the Summer of 2009, Pedro became one of the current Manchester City manager’s most effective offensive players during his tenure in Catalonia. 

In his first season under the guidance of Pep, the La Masia graduate became the first player to score in six different competitions in a single calendar year, and helped his side win La Liga with a then record 99 points. In the 2011 UEFA Champions League final, the Spanish international opened the scoring in a 3-1 win over Manchester United at Wembley. 

Cited by many as the perfect ‘pet project’ for Guardiola, he was able to make Pedro a hugely effective wide player with a keen eye for goal. Pedro’s fluctuating form in recent years at both Barcelona and Chelsea without the guidance of Guardiola, is a testament to how Pep was able to maximise the winger’s potential between 2008 and 2012. 

6. Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich 2015-2016)

“I have a lot to thank FC Bayern and the coach [Pep Guardiola] for. I don’t know if I’d have been playing for the France seniors so soon without the faith they showed me.” (Kingsley Coman to Bundesliga).

Hailed as a generational talent and a future ‘can’t miss’ attraction, Kingsley Coman signed for Italian giants Juventus. It seemed to be a perfect fit. In 2014, fellow French prodigy – Paul Pogba – was becoming an indispensable member of La Vecchia Signora’s starting line-up. 

However at Juventus, it was difficult to see what all the fuss was about regarding Kingsley Coman. The French youngster showed flashes of brilliance during his solitary Serie A campaign; but only flashes. While the prodigal talents of Pogba flurried; Coman floundered. 

With only one professional goal under his belt, Kingsley Coman was signed by Bayern Munich on an initial loan deal in August 2015. Within two months of his arrival in Bavaria, Pep Guardiola had made Coman into the player that so many had expected him to become. 

5. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City 2016-present)

Like Kingsley Coman, Raheem Sterling was a prodigal talent who was seemingly floundering. After bursting onto the scene during Liverpool’s 2013-14 title challenge – during which Sterling scored an impressive nine goals from a wide position – the English youngster had been largely considered a player with a turn of pace, but very little else. 

Sterling’s poor form continued into his first season at Manchester City in 2015-16. Despite being valued at an astonishing £44m the 23-year-old proved to be hugely underwhelming in first season at the Etihad. 

Since Pep Guardiola’s arrival in the Northwest however, we have a seen a new Raheem Sterling. A young man with a keen eye for goal; a knowledge of where and when to attack space, and a maturity on the ball. So far this season, Sterling has arguably been Manchester City’s most effective offensive player. Scoring a career best 15 goals already, it seems as though the sky’s the limit for Sterling under the tutelage of Guardiola. 

4. Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich 2013-2016)

“He [Pep Guardiola] had a very big impact on me; one of the biggest in my career, especially with the ball. I am more comfortable and confident to open the game and start the game.” (Jerome Boateng to Newsweek).

It is difficult to believe that once upon a time Jerome Boateng – arguably the best centre back in the world – was a failed full back at Manchester City, ostracised from a squad that he simply was not good enough to be a part of. 

Although Jerome Boateng had turned his career around prior to Pep Guardiola’s arrival in Bavaria, the Spanish manager undoubtedly added a new dimension to Boateng’s game. Once considered a purely physical talent, under the guidance of Guardiola, the 29-year-old became one of Europe’s most composed and technically proficient centre backs. 

Once a squad player at Manchester City, the German international is now the leader of the Bayern Munich dressing; largely thanks to Pep Guardiola. 

3. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich 2015-2016)

“It’s the trademark of a good coach that he’s never satisfied, and that he always tries to improve you. He always wants to get the maximum out of you. After the match, he told me a few things I should have done better.” (Joshua Kimmich to Bavarian Football Works).

It was one of the defining images of Pep Guardiola’s time at Bayern Munich. The Spaniard stood in the centre circle of the Westfalenstadion passionately exclaiming to youngster – Joshua Kimmich – that he can be one of the best centre backs in the world; that he has everything. The conviction with which Pep Guardiola uttered these words proved to be the catalyst for Joshua Kimmich’s transformation into one of the most complete young footballers in Europe. 

Now considered to be the heir to Philip Lahm in both the national team and at Bayern Munich, the 22-year-old has taken the chance Guardiola gave to him and has ran with it. 

2. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City: 2016 – present)

Kevin De Bruyne’s talents were already explicitly clear by the time Pep Guardiola arrived at the Etihad Stadium. The Belgian international had already set the Bundesliga alight with mesmeric performances at Wolfsburg between 2013 and 2016. 

Winning the 2015 German Footballer of the Year and propelling VfL Wolfsburg to second in the Bundesliga table, the trequartista was already considered by many to be one of Europe’s most outstanding offensive talents. 

Under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola however, Kevin De Bruyne has become a much more complete central midfielder. The 26-year-old has thrived in his new role as a deep lying central midfielder, becoming the driving force behind Manchester City’s astonishing start to their 2017-18 English Premier League campaign. 

With a number of man of the match performances already under his belt in the league this season, De Bruyne is now widely considered to be the best player in England.  

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona 2008-2012)

“Pep immediately transmitted an enormous amount of pride in our work, ambition and hunger. He won our confidence from the first day because we could see that things were being done correctly and then when results started to flow the confidence grew with them.” (Lionel Messi quoted by Manchester Evening News).

Like Kevin De Bruyne, Lionel Messi had already gained notoriety as one of the best players in the world. Utilised as a right winger by previous manager, Frank Rijkaard, the Argentine international was an integral member of Barcelona’s starting XI and widely considered to be a generational talent. 

It was under Pep Guardiola however, that Lionel Messi developed into arguably the greatest footballer of all time. The key to Messi’s development proved to be the Spanish manager’s decision to move the Argentine into a central role, known as the “false nine”. In this new role, the Argentine international blossomed into one of the most potent goal-scorers of all time, and a five time Ballon d’Or winner.