Pep Guardiola's Ultimate XI
Pep Guardiola is one of the greatest managers of all time and has taken charge of some of Europe’s biggest clubs. He is cruising to the Premier League title this season but do any of his Manchester City players make his all-time eleven of players he’s managed? This team doesn’t necessarily include the best players at his disposal but the most successful players that helped his teams.
Goalkeeper – Manuel Neuer
The German shot-stopper has been the best goalkeeper in the world for the last few years and played under Guardiola for three seasons at Bayern Munich and won the Bundesliga title in each of those seasons. He was already a top goalkeeper before Guardiola arrived at the Allianz Arena but the Spanish manager made him a top footballer – improving his ball skills so much that Neuer was known as the sweeper keeper.
Right Back – Dani Alves
The flying full-back was an integral part of Guardiola’s Barcelona side that some called the best in football history. The Brazilian netted 15 times in all competitions during their four seasons together at the Nou Camp and was known for his attacking and flamboyant style of play. Not only could he strike and pass a ball, but he was used so often as an outlet in Guardiola’s system that did not have much width.
Centre Back – Carles Puyol
Guardiola’s captain at Barcelona and warrior at the back. You could count on Carles Puyol to make that last-ditch challenge or that vital clearance and that was what set him aside from the other Guardiola defenders. He was the brawn in a very brainy Barcelona side and his leadership was so important during their dominant era.
Centre Back – Gerard Pique
Puyol’s centre back partner at Barcelona was the former academy player Gerard Pique. After a brief spell at Manchester United, Pique returned to his home city and is still at the heart of that defence. His confidence and ability on the ball was a true asset to Guardiola’s side and his defensive qualities were just as important.
Left Back – Phillip Lahm
I know he’s out of position but I had to fit him in here somewhere. Guardiola was obsessed with trying to play Lahm in central midfield during his time in Munich because of his intelligence and ball-playing skill. His position went from right back to centre midfield and back again but he didn’t look out of place in either position and captained the side to three Bundesliga titles.
Centre Midfield – Xavi
Arguably the greatest midfielder of his generation and he embodied everything that made Guardiola’s team so good. His passing was the best around and his partnership with Andres Iniesta at Barcelona formed one of the best midfields in history. He’d often have the highest passing stats in each game and kept that ‘tika taka’ style ticking.
Centre Midfield – Andres Iniesta
Xavi’s partner in crime also came through the La Masia academy and went on to win everything possible with the Catalan giants. Along with Xavi, he is the most creative midfielder in recent history and scored some incredibly important goals such as that late equaliser at Stamford Bridge in the 2009 Champions League semi-final.
Centre Midfield – Kevin De Bruyne
Despite not winning silverware with Guardiola at Manchester City (yet), the Belgian playmaker has passing ability similar to that of Xavi and Iniesta. His eye for goal also sets him apart from other Guardiola midfielders with De Bruyne possessing impressive accuracy and power from long range and dead ball situations.
Right Wing – Lionel Messi
Need I say why? The Argentinian magician won the Ballon d’Or for four consecutive years under Guardiola at Barcelona and was the most important player in that side. He played in a false-nine position alongside the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and David Villa but always shined the brightest with his phenomenal goals and assists tallies.
Left Wing – Arjen Robben
The Dutch winger enjoyed the best years of his career under Guardiola at Bayern Munich where he won three Bundesliga titles and came third in the 2014 Ballon d’Or behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. His tendency to cut inside on his stronger left foot from the right flank was as predictable as it was unstoppable and Robben got plenty of goals in a very successful team.
Striker – Samuel Eto’o
This position had the most competition but not really a standout player. I chose Samuel Eto’o because he scored an incredible 30 goals in 36 games in La Liga in his only season under Guardiola in 2008/09 and also scored in the 2009 Champions League final where Barcelona beat Manchester United 2-0. This place is certainly up for grabs for Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus should Guardiola stay at City for a long time to come.