Could trusted friend Txiki Begiristain lure Pep Guardiola to Manchester City?
Sunday 28 October 2012
If Manchester City's long term aims are to land Pep Guardiola and win the Champions League then it would have been impossible for them have picked anyone better suited to the job of hiring him than Txiki Begiristain.
A winner of the European Cup once as a player and twice as a sporting director, he was also the man who convinced Barcelona in 2008, when they were picking a new manager, that while candidate Jose Mourinho would bring silverware; Guardiola would deliver a golden age.
Roberto Mancini may have breathed a sigh of relief at Brian Marwood being moved to the club's academy but now not only does he have the architect of Barcelona's greatest-ever team working over him, but also the shadow of the coach he sponsored, looming large.
When Begiristain took over as sporting director at Barcelona in 2003 the club had gone four seasons without winning anything but in seven years at the helm they won 12 trophies – four league titles and two Champions Leagues as well as Barça's first-ever World Club Championship. The president of the club during that time, Joan Laporta, has described Begiristain as his best-ever signing.
When things soured under Frank Rijkaard and Mourinho applied to take over at the club he had worked at as an assistant to Bobby Robson, Begiristain took his biggest decision. Mourinho met with the vice-president Marc Ingla and the plan he laid out for the club's future convinced Ingla. But Laporta's trusted right-hand man Begiristain, also in the meeting, persuaded everyone that Guardiola was the man for the job.
To say that Begiristain called it right could be football's greatest understatement. Guardiola won everything in his first season – contesting six trophies and lifting them all with a type of game that reached its peak at the home of Barça's greatest rival – Real Madrid.
Begiristain watched that famous 6-2 win at the Bernabeu from a Madrid hotel with his family because it was his son's birthday and he did not want to take him to the stadium. It had been a Begiristain-made victory too. Six of the 11 players on the pitch had been his signings.
Asked once for balance about Begiristain's seven years at the club Guardiola joked: "Did Txiki do well? Well he signed me didn't he". The question now is "Can he sign him again?"
The two men did not part company on perfect terms in 2010 when Begiristain decided to leave with out-going president Laporta and Guardiola felt let down by his former dream team team-mate. But too many good things had happened prior to the parting for any bad feeling to last.
If Mancini wins the league this season then the decision will perhaps not have to be made but should City's new director of fooball become kingmaker, Begiristain has form for picking his former team-mate... even when Mourinho is the other option on the table.
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