During the past week’s truly bizarre (well, sort of – we long gave up being shocked about what happens in football these days…) sacking of Roberto di Matteo, Pep Guardiola’s name was rather predictably brought up.
It’s no secret that bonkers owner, and fast-becoming laughing stock caricature, Roman Abramovich is an admirer of the former Barca boss and wants him at the helm of Stamford Bridge. However, he had to settle for Rafael Benitez – poor him.
Obviously Guardiola saw more sense (so far) and has decided to remain on his sabbatical. Why would he want to end a year-long holiday early to take charge of a team where if you are found guilty of racism you are a club legend and where if you win the Champions League you are sacked?
Indeed, rumours are rife that he’s waiting for Sir Alex Ferguson to call time on his centuries in charge at Manchester United to return to the dugout. And that’s got us thinking, why would he want to do that? Following on from Fergie at Old Trafford will be a near impossible task. Which then got us thinking even more (yes, our heads are now hurting…) why would he want to return to management at all?
During his four years in charge of the Catalan giants he created a bit of footballing perfection. He was a true revolutionary who changed the way we think about the game and put together a side that will go down as one of the best, if not the greatest, of all time.
And the thing is, that’s probably as good as he’ll ever have it.
He was in charge of Barcelona at the perfect time – when he had near full command of the club, Lionel Messi quickly became the best player ever and when Masia masters Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta and Xavi were all coming into their prime.
Not wanting to sound pessimistic, but in this day and age he’ll never be able to have that control of a club again (definitely not Chelsea, that’s for sure) or come across that perfect storm of circumstance that he had at the Nou Camp.
So that got us thinking even more (we’re suffering from proper headaches now…) why doesn’t he become the footballing version of Harper Lee? The great American writer wrote one masterpiece – To Kill a Mockingbird – and then effectively, bar a few published essays, decided that was enough. All that’s happened since is she’s gone down as one of the greatest writers of her, or any, generation and appreciation for her wonderful book increases by the year.
Every artist suffers from ‘second album syndrome’, if we can put it like that, and some, like Lee, have more sense than to tarnish their reputation by trying to improve upon perfection. And if it means he doesn’t go to Chelsea to replace the soon-to-be-sacked Rafael Benitez, Guardiola would do well to follow her lead.
The now-closed Twitter account that so annoyed Kevin Pietersen was called ‘KP Genius’. He rightly assumed it was taking the mickey out of him. But having watched his masterful 186 against India, an innings that helped England to a 10-wicket win, we reckon he may as well reopen it because after his Mumbai masterclass the account’s name may not be too far from the truth.
There’s no getting away from the fact ‘KP’ is an enigma. He’s an egotist who’s always trained hard in team practices and, unlike some brilliant batsmen, tended to bat for the side and not his average. He’s South African but has a Three-Lions tattoo, he loves the limelight but is a family man.
No clearer were those contradictions seen than this summer when, as everyone knows, no sooner had he done his best to help the team with another super century against the Proteas, than he then did his level best to destroy it with his bizarre ‘it’s not easy being me’ interview and an overactive texting thumb.
However, that’s the thing about sporting greats – they tend to be flawed. It’s a cliché, we admit, but it’s true. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is what they do on the pitch, and in that regard Pietersen has nothing bad to answer for.
In Mumbai on the third day, 17 batsmen from England and India laboured to grind out 221 runs between them, while Pietersen scored 124 making it look like he was batting on a flat, lifeless pitch rather than a testing turner. It was one of the best innings we can remember – flawless, measured and always taking into account the match situation.
‘KP’ can be a right idiot, that much is obvious. But what’s equally apparent is that when he’s on song, there’s no word to describe him other than genius.
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