Guardiola: Bielsa the ‘person in world football I admire the most’

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It’s so rare to hear a manager as established and respected as Pep Guardiola straight-up gush about one of his peers.

But that’s what the Manchester City manager was doing this morning when asked about Marcelo Bielsa, the boss of Saturday opponent Leeds United (Watch live at 12:30 pm ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

[ PREVIEW: Leeds – Manchester City ]

Guardiola, who says new center back Ruben Dias could debut on Sunday, puts Bielsa above himself as well as a world football legend who is especially beloved in Catalonia.

“(Johan) Cruyff was the most influential (to me) because I was four years with him and when I started as a manager he was an incredible help, but Marcelo, he is the person in world football I admire the most,” Guardiola said in Friday’s pre-match press conference.

“My theory is the manager is not about the titles because I feel far away from his knowledge. My teams won more titles than his, but in terms of knowledge of the game, I am away from him. It is a good present, a good gift to have him in the Premier League.”

Bielsa, for what it’s worth, heaped praise on Guardiola on Thursday, calling him the architect of the best team he’s ever faced (late 2000’s Barcelona).

After hearing them, perhaps Pep felt pressure to one-up his mentor.

From The Manchester Evening News:

“His teams play like no other team,” Bielsa said. “First of all, he’s imaginative. He is able to instantly create solutions to problems he comes across. Another thing that distinguishes him as a top coach is what he proposes he’s able to implement. You praise someone it’s important to argue why because if not it’s mere empathy.

“We imagine football in an obedient manner. Guardiola imagined football in a freedom type of way. To imagine football this way doesn’t mean footballers are going to act in the same way. To propose a solution to the game. They don’t need a lot of time to incorporate it.”

We love that Pep and Bielsa are as excited for Saturday as we are.