In the same way Johan Cruyff left a lasting impression on Pep Guardiola, Guardiola did the same with former Barcelona star Xavi.
In a wide-ranging interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, Xabi was asked which managers he admired as he himself nears retirement as a player. Xabi cited Maurizio Sarri, Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino but added it all starts for him with Guardiola.
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“[Maurizio] Sarri’s Chelsea play well, even if not always,” Xavi said. “I like to see them for their assertiveness on the ball. Also Betis, [Unai] Emery’s Arsenal, Barcelona, Luis Enrique’s Spain and [Mauricio] Pochettino’s Tottenham. That’s without talking about Guardiola. who is the number one for this. He’s my reference as a coach.”
The former Barcelona midfielder also complimented Guardiola’s work at Manchester City.
“That players who never stood out before do so with Pep,” Xavi said. “Fernandinho, for example, now sees good passes. The defenders, [Nicolas] Otamendi, [John] Stones, [Aymeric] Laporte. You see them and say, ‘you can tell that Pep has given them tools for their development’.”
Theres nothing surprising about what Xavi said, though in the interview he also discussed his preferred style of play, holding onto the ball, taking risks to break the defensive lines. This is clearly similar to Guardiola.
Perhaps one day dozens of coaches will be on Guardiola’s coaching tree either as a former player or assistant coach.