Interview with Guillem Balagué
Guillem is a Spanish football expert. He is a regular pundit on Sky “ Revista de la liga” and is a regular contributor to British and Spanish newspapers.
Pep Guardiola’s biography, ‘Another way of winning’.
A Season on the Brink: Rafael Benitez, Liverpool and the Path to European Glory: A Portrait of Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool.
Guillem Balague’s Euro 2012 Diary.
How did the idea of writing Pep’s biography in English come up?
The Publisher is Orion, and I wrote a book with them before about Liverpool FC called “A Season on the Brink”. It is about the Champions League final in Istanbul, and although not being an official book about Liverpool, I spoke with everybody. I met Rafa Benitez, Pako Ayestaran and I spoke with all the players, with Gatusso, with the referee, who was Spanish, Mejuto González. I put it all together and it almost ended up being the book of the season. In it, I explained the final and the season. They were amazed, the publishers were very surprised with it, and they though, okay a writer, there are stories to tell… and then, since 2005, we were thinking about what we could do and we couldn’t agree on topics. But suddenly they said, Pep, and I said, well, only if I can speak with him, because I knew he wasn’t talking to anybody since joining Barcelona, so then I asked Pep and he said yes. So I said, let’s talk, but I wanted to speak with the players as well, but once he had agreed to do this, other doors opened. He even emailed Ferguson to speak with me, and at the end Ferguson did the foreword of my book. And in fact, it was so successful that the publisher asked me to write another book and well, I can’t speak about it yet, until I sign it, but it is going to be as important or even more than this one.
Do you thing that Guardiola left through ” The big door”?
(The big door or through the front door is a term commonly used in Spanish bullfighting to describe the triumphant exit of the bullfighter with honour, pride and dignity)
Yes of course is. It is a lesson in life. Those who speak Spanish and know about the Spanish popular culture will remember Leño. Leño is a rock band, with Rosendo as its lead singer, who brought ou a double live album and made the top 40 . They had their first sales and then they split up ,but,why did they break up? That is why everyone remembers Leño as a legend because they went at the right time. Pep certainly did this when it felt right and it was right for many reasons because he had successfully managed the players; because he was tired; because he needed another challenge; because he wanted to spend time with his family; a number of reasons why are explained in the book .He left before people got tired of him and therefore left through by the “big door”.
In spite of being a winner, which is unquestionable, what is your opinion on Pep when he showed his weaker side?
It is a ying yang situation, he is a modern superhero, he’s a bit like Spiderman, he has power but he doesn’t enjoy his powers, and the magic moment for him is the moment of finding how to win a game, but the winning isn’t always the most important thing for him, its a strange mix of this, of good and bad, of positive and negative, like ying yang .
He is physically weak and has hernia problems, his hair was falling out but he is very strong because he carried out a project, so discovering his weakness was nearly as attractive as discovering his power. because it is by his power that we know him.
In one chapter of your book you compare Mourinho with Guardiola. Do you believe that they could learn from each other?
Um, right now very little because at this moment in time Pep isn’t willing to listen to Jose and Jose doesn’t care to know about Pep. They have a lot of things in common and this was one of the important points of that chapter. Everyone says that they are different, chalk and cheeses. Society tends to view things in black and white. But I realised that they have a lot of things in common and the truth is yes, learning from one another, leading their teams in a similar way they have similarities, but on the pitch they are completely opposite.
What do you believe Guardiola will give Bayern Munich?
Common sense, hard work, style but he wants he absorb what Bayern Munich is as a football club, and then apply that to Bayern’s game, so initially Bayern will give more to Pep than the other way round, but he is a great coach and manager and I’m sure that the team will improve as a consequence.
Has it surprised you that his contract is until 2016?
No, it makes sense. It makes sense because I believe that he is fully aware of how to do his job, and what a manager/coach’s job is, and ,you see, he was looking for a club with a history and prestige, so therefore Manchester United and Arsenal, this type of football club will perhaps need a new manager in two or three years no? So 2016 makes sense if he decides to move on.
Do you think it has anything to do with the Barcelonas’s football club presidential elections which are in 3 years?
Interesting, because I’d never thought about that, that is good, that is good because he wants to go back in three years and well…. It’s quite interesting yes, your question is much more interesting than my answer would be………
What is your opinion about Valdes’ contract not being renewed?
Well he will soon be 32 so he has given everything to Barca, so it’s better that he goes now than suffer the inevitable comments that it is all about money. Pep suffered a lot when he had to renew his contract precisely because they accused him of a lot of things, not least, trying to do a deal, so he thought okay, I will leave. I think he thought if Barcelona want to sell me I will leave.
Everyone’s talking about goalkeepers at the moment, the transfers in the summer could be explosive, Valdes, Casillas, D’Egea ,Reina…. How and where do you think each one of these will end up?
Pff… I’m not very good at predictions but… Iker at Real Madrid and Valdes, I believe, will both stay, I thing Reina will either stay or go to Arsenal, and Egea will stay as well.
I think that we are talking about another type of profile that the club is looking for, like a number two or a replacement for Valdes, but I don’t believe that there will be much movement with these four.
We know about the ties that link you to this city and the interest that you have always had for Liverpool FC, what do you think that the reds are lacking at the moment?
Money to reach the top but otherwise they have a manager with clear ideas. Liverpool Football club owners are beginning to understand what it is all about. They have quality players but they need even more and this costs money. So I just think that money is the only thing that the reds are lacking.
And what have they got in abundance?
Sometimes you think that the history of the club outshines everything, in the sense that the expectations of the club are so high, but I think that after what Rafa has said about it, the fans started to realize that the club was now at a different level . I hope, as a massive Liverpool fan, that the club reaches the next level, but for the time being the club is where it has to be.
And now speaking about Guillem the Journalist, do you see your future in Spain?
Well I work for AS (Spanish sports newspaper) and for the “El Larguero” (Spanish radio sports program) but working there, In Spain, I don’t know, it’s never been that self satisfying for me .
I’m getting my coaches badges and I would like to raise a small football club, but I would love to work in Liverpool, there is so much I would like to do….but shall we say it is not an ambition of mine at the moment to work in Spain.
Which do you prefer, watching a premier league or a Spanish liga game?
The truth is I don’t know what to say to you… both. The Spanish league has a lot of things that it needs to learn and vice versa. I have a great time watching football. I’m currently following the Brazilian second division.