When Pep Guardiola calls time on his managerial career, the Catalan will go down as one of the greatest managers in the game of football ever, given the way he revolutionized football after taking over at Barcelona in 2008 and the success that he has continued to enjoy ever since.
In his four years with the Barcelona first-team, Guardiola took the side to such great heights, building one of the strongest teams in the modern era. Under him, the Blaugrana won three La Liga titles, two Champions League trophies along with three Spanish Super Cups and two Copa del Rey trophies.
Having taken a year sabbatical, Guardiola returned to management with Bayern Munich in 2013 and turned the German giants into an unbeatable unit in the Bundesliga, staving off the threat of Borussia Dortmund. Three seasons and three titles later, Guardiola came to England with Manchester City and has turned the Citizens into one of the most dominant sides in the country.
Pep has won two Premier League titles so far and won the domestic treble last time out, picking up the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup along with the league title.
In what has been a career littered with trophies, Guardiola has worked with some champion players along the way. From working with legends like Carles Puyol to bringing up youngsters such as Joshua Kimmich, the 49-year-old has coached some exceptional talents. But who would make it to the best XI of the players coached by the Catalan?
GK: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
Victor Valdes was an ever-present in Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side, while Ederson has been brilliant at Manchester City. However, it is Manuel Neuer who gets the nod in this side, given his impact and how he helped redefine the role of a goalkeeper under Guardiola at Bayern Munich.
Neuer was at the top of his game under Guardiola, making 152 appearances during the pair’s time together. It is also during this time he finished third in the 2014 Ballon d’Or.
RB: Dani Alves (Barcelona)
A vital cog in Barcelona’s domination under Pep, the Brazilian right-back's rampaging forward runs and his partnership with the likes of Lionel Messi made him a huge asset to the side. The third-most frequently used player by Guardiola, Alves featured 208 times under the Catalan and racked up a return of 15 goals and 67 assists.
An obvious choice for this spot, especially with Guardiola opting to move Philipp Lahm into a midfield role during his time at Bayern Munich.
CB: Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
The Barcelona academy graduate was brought back to the club by Guardiola in 2008 and he would go on to become an integral part of the side that dispatched almost every team that came in their way. His strength and physicality, coupled with his distribution skills made him such a perfect fit into Guardiola’s system. The former Spanish international made 183 appearances at Barcelona under Pep and gets picked over the likes of Jerome Boateng.
CB: Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
Captain Fantastic of the all-conquering Barcelona team, Carles Puyol’s presence, his leadership and heart on the sleeve approach to the game was pivotal in the La Liga giants’ rise to the top under Guardiola.
A former teammate of Pep at Barcelona, the legendary defender helped carry out the 49-year-old's instructions on the field and marshalled his troops brilliantly in the 164 appearances he made under Guardiola.
Read | Ultimate XI of players coached by Jose Mourinho
LB: David Alaba (Bayern Munich)
Eric Abidal was a strong contender for this spot, but it is Alaba who gets selected due to the dramatic rise in stature he enjoyed under the tutelage of Guardiola. While he was always rated high, the Austrian became a world-class full-back during his time with Pep, while also adding more bows to strings by learning the ropes of playing in central defence and defensive midfield positions as well.
Alaba featured in 124 of Guardiola’s 161 games in charge at the Allianz Arena, bagging 11 goals and assisting 12 more, playing a pivotal role in the hat-trick of league titles under the Catalan.
CM: Xavi (Barcelona)
An absolute legend of the game, whose game went up a notch when working with Guardiola at Barcelona. Xavi was the man who made the Catalans tick with his range of distribution and ability to dictate the tempo of games.
The Spanish legend made 208 appearances for Guardiola at Barca, amassing 36 goals and 81 assists. Safe to say that without him, Guardiola and Barcelona wouldn’t have reached the heights they did. Xavi finished in the top three of the Ballon d’Or thrice in his four-year association with Pep.
DM: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
Xabi Alonso, Fernandinho, Javier Mascherano, Guardiola has worked with some of the finest defensive midfielders of the modern era. But the holding midfield slot will have to go to another Barcelona man, Sergio Busquets.
The Spaniard performed the sweeping up duties in the middle of the park so effectively and acted as the conduit between the two halves of the field. Never one to get the limelight, as Guardiola himself described Busquets once, “He does everything for those around him.” During the pair’s time, Busquets made 191 appearances for Barcelona, grabbing seven goals and 12 assists.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
David Silva, Yaya Toure, Thiago Alcantara, all world-class players to have worked and grown under Guardiola’s guidance. But it boiled down to two names finally; Andres Iniesta and Kevin De Bruyne. But given the former versatility and ability, we have gone on to hand the midfield slot to the Manchester City man who has grown into the best attacking midfielders in the game currently.
De Bruyne has been integral to Manchester City’s rise to the pinnacle of English football under Guardiola in recent seasons. The Belgian international has featured 168 times for City under Pepe, producing amazing returns of 34 goals and 73 assists.
RW: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Honourable mentions to Pedro and Arjen Robben who were pivotal in Guardiola’s teams at Barcelona and Bayern respectively. However, the impact that the coaching of Pep has had on Sterling’s career sees him getting the nod here. Prior to working with the Catalan, the Englishman was seen as a precocious talent. But under Pep, Sterling has grown into one of the most devastating attackers in England and Europe.
Guardiola has helped polish Sterling’s game which is evident by the increase in his productivity in front of goal over the past couple of years. The England international has amassed a mind-blowing tally of 78 goals and 62 assists in 178 appearances for City under Pep.
ST: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Who else but the world’s best player. Guardiola has worked with some of the finest forwards in the game – Sergio Aguero, Robert Lewandowski, David Villa, among many others. But there was always going to be one man leading the line in the best XI.
Messi’s rise to the top of world football may have begun prior to Guardiola taking over at Barcelona, but under his guidance, the Argentine reached the pinnacle and continues to stay there, unmatched. Producing a mind-boggling tally of 211 goals and 90 assists in 219 appearances under Guardiola, Messi also won four of his six Ballon d’Or awards during his time with the Catalan.
LW: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Iniesta may have played most of his career in the middle of the park, but the Spaniard was versatile enough to play on the left flank, as he did on so many occasions under Guardiola. And there can be no best Guardiola XI without the Barcelona legend.
With Xavi and Messi, Iniesta was one of the leading lights of the dominant Barcelona side under Pep. The 35-year-old racked up 181 appearances for the Catalans under the current Man City boss, producing a return of 23 goals and 53 assists, finishing in the top three of the Ballon d’Or awards thrice during this period.