Pep Guardiola likes to gush at press conferences, usually deliberately exaggerating. He became noticeably more serious on Monday when it came to the late Terry Venables
When Pep Guardiola was a kid, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, being a Barça fan was not a pleasure tax. Others were always champions, for eleven years. That changed in the summer of 1984 when the Catalans signed an Englishman who had previously coached Queens Park Rangers for four seasons without winning a title. The Catalans were astonished.
They were particularly astonished when Terry Venables, who died last weekend, left his mark on FC Barcelona, which was always viewed with suspicion on the island. It soon won the hearts of many fans in north-eastern Spain, such as the young Guardiola, who is pictured as a ball boy cheering on Venables, who is carried on his shoulders.
“He was the first time I saw Barça win La Liga,” the grown-up Guardiola recalled on Monday, waxing lyrical about another former Barça coach. Once again, it was all about the ‘how’. “His influence was incredible,” said the 52-year-old, praising the then 41-year-old. “He introduced things that I had never experienced before. Changing formations, special pressing and, above all, good standards.” Guardiola remembers “many headers”
Venables almost took Barça all the way to the trophy
However, Venables had little influence on the budding professional footballer and top coach Guardiola, as he admits: “I was just a fan back then, a ball boy.” Who had no idea that he would one day become a professional and didn’t waste a thought on switching to the coaching bench afterwards. Just like Venables, who in 1986 was just one penalty shoot-out against Steaua Bucharest away from becoming the first Barça coach to win the trophy.
Guardiola became the second more than 20 years later (after Johan Cruyff), not without a few elements that Barça had already accomplished under Venables. This is probably why he described his predecessor as a “great loss for English soccer” – on English soil, where some may only now be realizing this.