Wed Oct 01 14:11:57 SAST 2014

Pep leaving too early

Apr 29, 2012 | Sapa-AP |

LED by Pep Guardiola and inspired by Lionel Messi, this Barcelona side could have gone down in football history as the best club team ever.

THAT'S IT, FOLKS: Pep Guardiola. Picture by Reuters

It could have unequivocally and definitively surpassed Real Madrid's stars from the 1950s, Johan Cruyff's Ajax, AC Milan coached by Arrigo Sacchi, Bayern Munich's triple European champions in the 1970s and perhaps a few others.

But now we might never know. Or, at least, we may never be 100% sure. By deserting Barcelona, Guardiola is robbing himself and his players of a chance at football immortality.

Barcelona's most successful manager leaves an artwork more than half complete.

History's judgment will be this: Guardiola produced one of football's best teams, but perhaps not its greatest, because he did not stick around quite long enough to end that debate once and for all.

In short, he is leaving too early.

The reasons - burnout, dwindling motivation, the fact that there are many rewarding things for a 41-year-old to do in life other than obsess 24/7 about football - are understandable.

If Alex Ferguson is the bramble of football, a hardy and unshakable thorn in everyone's side for a quarter-century at Manchester United, then Guardiola has been the brilliant flower who drew admiring gasps.

Managers who jump instead of being pushed aren't the norm. More common are those axed when their teams underperform.

So Guardiola looked enigmatic for turning his back on success. But human, too, for acknowledging that the job has taken its toll.

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Wed Oct 01 14:11:57 SAST 2014 ::

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