Ahead of Wednesday’s MLS All-Star game against Bayern Munich, New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry has described what makes opposition manager Pep Guardiola so special.
Originally joining Barcelona from Arsenal in 2007, Henry would go trophy-less in his first season with the Spanish side, but the arrival of Guardiola for 2008-09 would usher in a historic era of success at the Nou Camp, with the club winning the treble at the end of his first season in charge.
Adding the Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Cup World Cup in the second-half of 2009 to achieve an unprecedented sextuple, the Gunners legend would then win a successive La Liga crown in 2010 before departing for the Red Bulls that summer, and went into great detail to stress why exactly his former boss had been so hugely successful over recent years.
For me, it’s his discipline. When he arrived at Barcelona, he put discipline into that team, on the field and outside the field,’ he said at the All-Star game press conference.
‘Whatever you’re thinking of when playing against his team, he’s already thought about it a few days before. He will always be a step ahead of you in everything – free-kicks, throw-ins, whatever it is. He’s thinking way ahead of the game and he demands a lot from his players.'
‘I remember some games where we were about 5-0 up at half-time and he wasn’t happy. That’s him. He’s demanding a lot,’ he added.
‘The fans at Barca also demand a lot but he wants perfection from you in training, outside of the field and on the field, so you better be ready and always on your toes. That’s just the way it is.'
‘Whatever it is you’re doing in training, when you go for a drink, you have to run and drink – you can’t waste any time. If you don’t pass it well, he will tell you. In five-on-two we like to joke around, but with him you don’t joke around. It had to be done properly. The weight of the pass has to be proper. Everything has to be proper.'
‘That’s why he’s the boss that be became. He loves the game too. You arrive at the training ground, he’s there at seven in the morning and he leaves at seven at night.’
Guardiola would win a third consecutive La Liga title in 2011, as well as a second Champions League, before leaving Barca after the 2011-12 season to take a break from the game.
Returning with Bayern in 2013 after a year out, the past campaign saw the former Spain international guide the German giants to a domestic double, winning 29 of their 34 Bundesliga games to continue the success he enjoyed with his boyhood club.
Now in the US for their mini-pre-season tour, Guardiola’s side will face off against Henry and the best of MLS midweek, where they can be sure that their All-Star opposition won’t be taking the game lightly.