Football freak Pep will make a revolution: Alves

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola juggling during training. Barcelona defender Dani Alves says while his former coach will want his way at new club Manchester City, it may not guarantee success. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BARCELONA • April 2011, Champions League semi-final press conference: Pep Guardiola's face is frozen with intent as he prepares to unleash an astounding attack on Jose Mourinho's media machinations.

"In this room he is the f***ing boss, the f***ing chief," he says with a glare, having asked which was Mourinho's camera. "We will play a match on the pitch."

Dani Alves smiles at a Bernabeu memory that hints at the forthcoming inferno if the former Barcelona-Real Madrid rivals resume their tussle in Manchester next season. Guardiola will take over at Manchester City, while Mourinho is widely expected to replace Louis van Gaal at Manchester United.

"I remember that well and I think we started to win that competition that night," says Barcelona's Brazilian defender, bucking the belief that Guardiola had lost his pre-match cool.

"For football it is good. They live football in opposite ways, but they are two strategists and we must live football with the necessary intensity. They both live it in a personal way and are the people who put the spice into the game."

So, what can City expect from their new head coach as he arrives on a tidal wave of appreciation?

"His secret is he gets you to see things differently," says Alves, 32, at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, Barca's training ground.

"He is a football Einstein. For him it's a change and that's what he likes. Guardiola likes to move to places where he can make a revolution. I have no doubt that he is going to achieve it because he is a freak of football.

"This revolution will be far reaching, of the organisation, the team, the club. He will want everything his way, and when you get to a place where they are going to allow that - because in England they respect that - it will be ideal for him."

Autonomy is one thing; the trouble with Guardiola, according to a disaffected Zlatan Ibrahimovic who struggled under him at Barcelona, was that he created automatons, bereft of personality and moulded by methodology.

"Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola draws the curtains," Ibrahimovic opined.

So, what did Guardiola do for Alves that the coach might now pull off with City's players?

"He taught me to play without the ball," Alves says without missing a beat. "I thought, how can you play football without the ball? He convinced me that it would be better that way."

The work ethic of Guardiola's teams has been much lauded and, although the Brazilian full-back has completed more passes than any other player during Barcelona's current unbeaten record run of 29 games, his movement without the ball has been an aid to the greatest hits of Lionel Messi.

Yet, Alves suggests that Luis Enrique's Barcelona side are actually more complete and Guardiola's way is no guarantee of success for City.

Does he regard City as a major European threat for next season?

"It will be difficult because he will have to find the pieces," said Alves. "It was difficult for Guardiola when he left (Barcelona) because he had a philosophy and knew players were going to follow him. Elsewhere, they are of a different mentality. If you have a puzzle and cannot find the right pieces, the thing will never fit."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2016, with the headline 'Football freak Pep will make a revolution: Alves'. Print Edition | Subscribe