Txiki Begiristain + Pep Guardiola, the Most Formidable Director-Manager Relationship?
Not too many football fans are concerned with who’s in charge of directing the affairs of their darling clubs, all that really matters is registering maximum points every weekend and ensuring the trophy cabinet never gets covered in dust
However, most times, the factors influencing the success of a football club go well beyond pitch business, the culture and philosophy matter too, and these two don’t run themselves, in fact, they are carefully driven and kept alive by a hidden hand, usually the sporting director or director of football
When Txiki Begiristain hung his boots in 1999, he was retiring as a man who had tasted success in all it’s glory.
Mujika played a vital role in Barcelona’s famous dream team of 92/93, a side that won four successive domestic titles as well as the UEFA cup winners cup.
Seven years later, the Spanish winger called it a wrap after two seasons at Urawa, Japanese J1-league giants.
While Txiki was readying himself for the next phase of his life, Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s and City’s future manager, was dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on his colorful timeline with FC Barcelona
Both Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain had been team-mates at Barcelona and won a number of trophies together, but what no one expected was the future reunion between the pair, a working relationship that would usher in multiple eras of unrivaled football dominance.
In 2003, under the administration of Joan Laporta, Txiki was appointed director of football at FC Barcelona, and at the same time, Pep Guardiola was reestablishing himself in Qatar’s Stars League after a disappointing spell with Brescia and Roma in the Serie-A.
Three years later, the Catalan midfield maestro joined Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico where he spent part of his six-month spell taking managerial studies in preparing for his coaching career.
After guiding Barcelona’s B side to promotion in 2007, Pep Guardiola’s perfect start to his managerial career earned him the position of first team manager, replacing dutch tactician, Frank Rijkaard in 2008; This was only the beginning of the ‘Txiki-Pep’ era of unrivaled dominance
As director of football at Barcelona, Txiki worked harmoniously with Pep Guardiola to ensure the Catalan’s transfer wishes were met; a relationship that had many questioning why the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco, Zambrotta, Thuram (2008) and eventually Eto’O (2010) were allowed to leave.
Joan Laporta, Barcelona president at the time, said quote: “Bringing in Txiki was the best decision I ever made.” Laporta knew what he was saying; When Txiki was appointed in 2003, Barcelona had gone four years without a trophy and were in an endless romance with a series of crisis.
Once Txiki settled in and Barcelona went on to win two European trophies and five La Liga titles in seven years.
Yet, as Sid Lowe of the Guardian put it..
Barcelona had begun a slide under Rijkaard and even before the 2007-08 season was finished Begiristain had determined a change was needed, even as some on the board resisted. The decision may even have come late, but it did finally come.
Begiristain said Rijkaard had lost control of the dressing room. There was, though, no guarantee that Guardiola would wrest it back again, still less that he would prove successful. He had only been a coach for one season: with Barcelona B.
But Begiristain had faith in Guardiola. He formed part of the Johan Cruyff-led dream team alongside Guardiola that won the 1992 European Cup and they shared an approach.
Once Txiki and his Catalan counterpart had all the pieces of the puzzle in place… the magic began to unfold.
In Barcelona’s first year with Txiki as (director of football) and Pep as (first team coach), the Blaugrana enjoyed a Sextuple; in layman’s terms, they won everything they competed for.
Although the culture of the club remained intact, Txiki and Pep had laid a solid foundation for the smooth transition of FC Barcelona from an ‘Okay’ era, to the most dominant era Spanish football had ever seen; Barcelona had become the benchmark for all and the ‘mes que un club’ culture was alive again, this time, even more vibrant!
Following the departure of Joan Laporta in 2010, Txiki Begiristain left his position as director of football at Barcelona, Pep had lost his man, and even though the pair would be separated for a couple of years, the success at Camp Nou continued.
Pep Guardiola guided Los Cules to 8 more titles, including the famous Champions League triumph over Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United at Wembley, before leaving Barcelona in 2012 for a 365-day sabbatical with his family in New York.
While the Catalan was preparing for the next phase of his managerial career, in the wake of Roberto Mancini’s disappointment in the club’s inability to tidy up transfer deals before deadlines, Manchester City busied themselves with the appointment of former Barcelona man, Txiki Begiristain, as director of football
Again, just like his days at Barcelona, Txiki was given complete control over recruitment while his predecessor Brian Marwood, was immediately moved to an academy position within the club.. Txiki’s first Transfer deals brought in the like of Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and David Silva.
In the summer of 2013, after practicing German for an average of 4hours/day in preparation for his next job, Guardiola officially took over as Bayern boss, replacing the legendary Jupp Henyckes.
Although Txiki and Pep were still separated, the Catalan had control over Transfer activities at the Allianz Arena and would guide the club to seven titles in his three year stay in Bavaria… but a reunion was lurking, and Manchester City’s unrivaled dominance this season is only a reflection of the harmonious working relationship between former Barcelona team-mates.
In the last months of Pep’s final season a Bayern, the long awaited reunion finally happened, the Catalan signed a three-year contract with the Cityzens, to reestablish a working relationship with Txiki Begiristain, director of football at Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s debut season was unlike any other at his previous clubs, the Cityzens went trophyless, and the critics questioned the potency of Txiki and Pep’s ideas in the Premier League; Both men had dominated in Spain, but England was presenting an unusual puzzle for the former Barcelona employees, howbeit, not for long.
At the end of the 2016/17 season, Pep Guardiola’s identification of defensive loopholes convinced Txiki to pursue the signings of Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Ederson Moraes from Benfica, while the likes of Aleksandar Kolarov, Bacary Sagna, Kyle Walker and Pablo Zabaleta were allowed to leave.
Amid Manchester City’s trophyless campaign, pundits believed the Premier League was too ‘English’ for Pep’s ideas, your ideas don’t work here they said, but Txiki and Pep would have been laughing their asses out, they knew the bugs had been fixed, and that Europe was about to experience another era of unrivaled dominance
Over twenty-one games into the 2017/18 campaign, we’ve all had to hold our mouths in our hands, like a perfectly orchestrated chess move, Manchester City have brought the Premier league to it’s knees, they aren’t just winning and dominating, they’re perfecting those famous lines, ‘Competition is a sin’
Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling have hit full gear, Ederson Moraes is out there doing the unthinkable with his feet, while the rest of the City team are playing their roles perfectly well.. 22 and 0, 20 wins, 2 draws, zero losses.
Again, this is no coincidence, and the electrifying form that the Cityzens currently enjoy is only a small reflection of the behind the scenes transformation of club culture at the Etihad; same club, different culture, different philosophy.
Manchester City may not have too many similarities with Barcelona’s squad between 2009-2012, but the culture and pattern of play has hardly changed, and oh, the director of football and head coach in both eras are still the same and arguably the best in the business as we speak…
Who are they? a certain Txiki Begiristain and Pep Guardiola.