Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is arguably the greatest coach in the world right now. It has been nearly 14 years since he first took on a managerial role at Barcelona in July 2008. With 14 trophies in four years at the Camp Nou, he is the most successful manager in Barcelona's history.
However, Guardiola is anything but a one-trick pony. His record of 31 trophies as a manager is testament to his prowess. More importantly, the Spaniard has also had great success while working with young players and improving them, along with a team's cohesiveness and functioning.
Pep Guardiola has worked with some of the greatest players in history
Although he has only managed three clubs - Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City - Pep Guardiola has worked with numerous world-class players.
His Barcelona side of the early 2010s is considered the best club team in the history of the sport. Bayern Munich scored 254 goals in 102 league games en route to a hat-trick of Bundesliga titles with Guardiola at their helm. Manchester City, meanwhile, have firmly established themselves as the dominant power in English football under the Spaniard's tutelage.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Guardiola has joined forces with some of the greatest stars the sport has seen. On that note, here's a look at five of the best players the Spaniard has coached.
Honourable mentions: Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer, Kevin De Bruyne, Carles Puyol, Dani Alves, Franck Ribery, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Philipp Lahm.
#5 Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski joined Bayern Munich ahead of the 2014-15 season, a year after Pep Guardiola's arrival in Germany.
Although the Spanish coach worked with legends such as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm, it was Lewandowski who impressed the most during that spell.
The Polish forward played 104 games across two seasons under Guardiola, scoring 67 times and providing 19 assists. That included 30 league goals in 2015-16 (the third-highest of his career) and nine strikes in the Champions League (the second-highest of his career). The duo won back-to-back Bundesliga titles, as well as the 2015-16 DFB-Pokal.
#4 Sergio Aguero
Former Argentina striker Sergio Aguero is one of the greatest centre-forwards of the modern era. Manchester City's record goalscorer netted 260 goals for the Sky Blues. He was instrumental in their 2011-12 title win, which remains the greatest moment in their history.
Guardiola arrived in Manchester ahead of the 2016-17 season. Under the Spaniard, Aguero played 183 games, and found the back of the net 124 times. The duo won three Premier League titles, four EFL Carabao Cups, an FA Cup and three Community Shields together.
Aguero left the club after the expiration of his contract at the end of the 2020-21 season. Although he joined Barcelona, the Argentine was forced to retire due to a heart issue.
#3 Xavi Hernandez
Spain and Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez was arguably the most important element of Pep Guardiola's 'tiki-taka' philosophy at the Camp Nou.
A master passer, the FIFA World Cup-winning midfielder (with Spain) was calm and composed in possession. He barely ever put a foot wrong in the middle of the park.
Xavi made 208 of his 757 Barcelona appearances under Guardiola, with the midfielder contributing 36 goals and 82 assists. That included a memorable 2008-09 season, where he registered 23 league assists. Although the stats don't pop off the charts, Xavi was the engine through which Guardiola implemented his tactics of retaining possession and controlling the tempo of games.
Together, they won three La Ligas, two Champions Leagues, two Copa del Reys, three Spanish Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups and two UEFA Super Cups. That included the 2008-09 season, where Barcelona won a remarkable continental treble, becoming the first Spanish team to do so.
#2 Andres Iniesta
The other half of Barcelona's magical midfield duo, Andres Iniesta, is arguably the greatest midfielder of his era. The scorer of Spain's legendary 2010 FIFA World Cup-winning goal was a key piece of Barcelona's success in the early 2010s.
While Xavi helped Barcelona retain possession, Iniesta was perfect for Guardiola's strategy of playing proactive football and moving up the pitch rather than backward or sideways. A gifted dribbler, Iniesta had a crafty knack of getting out of tight spaces, thanks to his impeccable footwork and soft touch.
Iniesta played 674 games for Barcelona, of which 181 came under Guardiola. He netted 23 goals and provided 53 assists while winning 14 trophies in four years under the Spanish manager. Iniesta is yet to hang up his boots, and continues to ply his trade for Vissel Kobe in Japan.
#1 Lionel Messi
Who else but Lionel Messi? Under Pep Guardiola, the diminutive Argentine went from a prodigiously talented youngster to the greatest player in the world. The Spanish manager made Messi the focal point of Barcelona's attack, and the team reaped immense rewards.
The Argentine was just 21 when Guardiola took over the reins at Barcelona. By the time the Spaniard departed the club, Messi had won four consecutive Ballon d'Or awards between 2009 and 2012. He played 222 games for the Blaugrana during that period, scoring an astonishing 211 goals and registering 127 assists.
That included the 2011-12 season, which is arguably the greatest individual season by a player in the history of the sport. Messi scored 50 goals and provided 34 assists in 37 La Liga games. The four-year spell is the greatest peak in football history, and will likely never be matched.
Like Xavi and Iniesta, Messi won 14 trophies, including a continental treble, while Pep Guardiola was at the club.
Q. Was Robert Lewandowski Pep Guardiola's greatest player at Bayern Munich?
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