Pep Guardiola, in a exclusive, passionate interview, revealed part of his football ethos regarding youngsters earlier this month.
Man City’s shock exit from the FA Cup gave Guardiola chance to take his squad away to the Middle East to get some warm weather training and while in Abu Dhabi, Man City’s Editor in Chief Chris Bailey caught up with City head coach Guardiola and part of the 30-minute chat was dedicated to Pep’s thoughts about developing youth talent.
It’s a fascinating listen/read…
How old should we start kids at competitive football? Do we start them too young?
“Lionel Messi started when he was six years old, but of course he is an exception,” said Guardiola.
“You have to let each player’s body develop. Nature is more intelligent than us and it really decides and it’s no good putting them in the gym to develop. The guy who is going to be faster will be faster, the guy who will be taller, will be taller and the guy who will be stronger, will be stronger.
“It can go year by year depending on the player. But the important thing is the talent. If they have the talent, they have it regardless of their physique.
“Sometimes it’s a big problem with players who have been told they are good enough by their manager, social media etc. They have to know when they are not good enough.
“I was manager with players who were 28-years-old and they improved dramatically to the age of 32 because they were still able to learn at that age.
“Sometimes when when we say players are good and they are 17, we say they are ready for the first team, but no, no, they are just at 10% of where they need to be.”
What about younger players, can they play too much competitive football at an early age?
“At that age they have to play and play as much as possible. Play in the street – in my day we could and now maybe it’s not possible – but play and play and play and that’s all and let them play day and night and let them make mistakes,” added Guardiola.
“Some advice to help them understand how we play the game is good. As quickly as possibly they need to understand tactics and why we decide to play the way we do.”
Do you get more pleasure out of winning a trophy of seeing a player develop to his full potential?
“With the type of players you win titles, so both.
“In a professional way I understand completely why we have to win titles, that is why we are here.
“Of course the pleasure is help a player reach his potential, but in reality they deserve the opportunity. But of course it’s a big pleasure if they think that you have helped them in their careers.”
Will we see a Pep Guardiola Academy when you finish managing?
“Maybe I would like to finish where I started. Maybe I will finish there, but for the moment I have a few years in front of me as manager at City.
“I take pleasure from seeing players learn, you’re like a teacher of mathematics in a school. When I was in the Barcelona Academy just seeing the players training trying to fulfill their dreams was amazing.”
In 20 years can you be an influence as great at Johan Cruyff?
“I don’t think so because Johan Cruyff’s influence was huge. His influence is not comparable. He was the most influential person in the world of football for the last 50 or 60 years.
“He influenced a lot of players and most of those are now coaches. We can never pay a big enough tribute to him.”