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Also: USMNT, and replacing Pep/Klopp
Hi everyone and thanks for some terrific questions here. I’ve answered five of them and there were plenty more I wish I could have addressed without making the article 10k words. Free readers get the first of these questions, then the other four are for paid subscribers only. Let’s get stuck into it.
“What do you think the football landscape would look like if Mourinho got the Barcelona job in 2008, rather than Guardiola? Would Guardiola been able to establish juego de posicion at another club, and was his focus on controlled possession and quick passing destined to catch on as a natural development of the game; or was that only due to his success at Barcelona?”
Oh, this is so good and I’m mad at myself that I never thought of it.
Let’s start with one big hunch: in terms of results, José Mourinho would have been a very successful Barcelona manager in 2008. He was incredible at Inter in that period, and that managerial acumen plus Lionel Messi can only mean trophies. Guardiola, I’m guessing, would have stayed at Barca B for another year or so before deciding there just wasn’t a pathway for him without going somewhere else first.
A great player, especially one known for his thoughtfulness like Guardiola, is always going to have opportunities in management. I imagine he goes to a bottom half La Liga club and impresses? Let’s say Mourinho flames out in his third season again, then Barcelona hire a different manager for two years before finally giving Guardiola the keys to the Tardis in 2013.
I think there’s still something of a swing towards attacking football. Louis van Gaal’s Bayern probably win the Champions League in 2010 without Mourinho’s Inter. Manuel Pellegrini presumably wins one league title at Real Madrid, and if they don’t, Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea might do it instead. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United could win the tournament in 2011. That’s most of the biggest sides in Europe playing a better brand of football, and Mourinho’s Barcelona standing alone in defence-first methods.
But I think that era would have a much greater emphasis on individuals doing brilliant things rather than collective structure in attack. We’d see something closer to 1990s football than the post-Cruyffian positional play we actually got. I’m sure Guardiola would be very successful when Barca inevitably gave him the job, but by then Messi would be much more established than he had been in 2008. Guardiola would probably have to sacrifice his principles a little more to accommodate a Messi more used to just doing his own thing, and thus wouldn’t totally imprint his ideas on the team.
So my hunch is we’d still see a shift away from the negative football of the late 2000s, but it would be more individualistic and less focused on coordinated pressing systems and positional play. Whether that’s better or worse is in the eye of the beholder.
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