Modern managers and their extremely complex technicalities are viewed as murderers of talent by some. They prioritise arrows and circles over the natural gift born in the streets. But this is far from always the case. Pep Guardiola is the best tactician, but also the best at handling talent. He recognises it, develops it and provides it with the best conditions to flourish. He aligns his principles with the individuals at his disposal.
By contrast, Gareth Southgate, Didier Deschamps or Fernando Santos are more concerned about nullifying the rivals’ strengths than about maximising those of their team. There is more emphasis on an efficient defensive strategy than on letting the best footballers interact and enhance each other. A shame considering the prodigious squads they enjoy and the unique creativity that could distinguish them from the rest.
This creativity is what Guardiola’s football best unleashes. Because his football is about thinking and thinking, about finding solutions, so expressivity blossoms. The players know their positions without being robots executing orders; they know the spaces where they can move naturally and make a difference.
Can all of Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka play together? That is the coach’s main job, to optimise talent and find the way that that does not compromise collective stability. No one manages this better than Pep, an artisan of talent. Where to place the best pieces so that they sound as harmoniously as possible? That’s the puzzle that fascinates him to create an orchestra in the service of beauty.