Pep Guardiola is number 4 in 90min's Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.
You all know Pep Guardiola, right? The fella's won almost everything worth winning at club level - a few countries aside - and is generally considered a pretty good manager.
The La Liga, Bundesliga, Premier League and Champions League winner has assembled some pretty tasty teams during his time at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, and undoubtedly a few players are unlucky to miss out on this hypothetical Guardiola XI.
What no one will be able to disagree with, however, is how good the team below would be if the stars included all played on the same side. That's impossible, obviously, but hey, can't we gaze into the stars and dream?
Anyways, here's the serial league winner's all-time XI. Go figure.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Manuel Neuer - While arguably not the force he once was nowadays, Neuer was undeniably the best goalkeeper in the world when Guardiola managed Bayern. He even came third in the 2014 Ballon d'Or, behind winner Cristiano Ronaldo and runner up Lionel Messi.
Dani Alves - One of the most decorated footballers of all time, Alves' marauding runs from right back were frequent during Barcelona's spell as Europe's dominant team under Guardiola. Alves would push high up the pitch and rack up plenty of assists season after season at Camp Nou.
Carles Puyol - Barca's captain from 2004 until his retirement in 2014, Puyol was known for his full-throttle defensive style. A commanding presence in the air and surprisingly nimble, the current La Liga champions have struggled to replace Puyol since he called time on his career.
Gerard Pique - Brought back to Barcelona by Guardiola in 2008, Pique has enjoyed a fantastic career filled with regular competition wins at club level. He was the perfect foil for Puyol, being both an astute passer and a towering aerial competitor.
David Alaba - Guardiola played a massive role in transforming Alaba into the world class talent he is today. The Austrian is known for his versatility and played on the wing, in central midfield and as an inverted full back during his time under the Catalan. Remains one of the finest left backs around.
Xavi - This lad was good at passing, among other things. Cool on the ball despite not being the quickest, Xavi was a master at buying himself time in midfield, be that through pirouettes or little one-twos. Holds the record for most Barcelona appearances ever.
Andres Iniesta - Can you see how this midfield is shaping up? Iniesta won nine La Liga titles with Barca as well as four Champions Leagues, and had an immense understanding with Xavi. Balance, agility, an eye for both a pass and a goal and just a supremely intelligent player, Iniesta will forever be a Barcelona icon.
Sergio Busquets - This guy is the ultimate sitting midfielder. He mops everything up and never misses a chance for an interception. Guardiola himself even said: “He does everything for those around him.” High praise indeed.
Lionel Messi - I'm not going to explain this pick, you all know Lionel Messi is good at doing the thing with his feet and the ball.
Sergio Aguero - This is where the selections come under a bit more scrutiny. Sergio Aguero hasn't always been Guardiola's favourite at Manchester City, with Gabriel Jesus occasionally nipping ahead of the Argentine in the starting lineup, but almost by sheer willpower Aguero reestablished himself as one of City's most important players with a lot of goals.
Raheem Sterling - Yes, I'm sure a few of you are screaming out for David Villa, Pedro, Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and countless others, but not one of those players has benefitted from Guardiola's teachings like Sterling. Now one of the best players in the Premier League and crucial in the England set-up, Sterling is a supreme goalscorer and is starting to get the respect he's deserved for years. He has an instinct for goalscoring situations and his positional improvement is no doubt a product of working under Guardiola.
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