They may be enemies on the pitch, or the sideline to be more accurate, but football managers (and head coaches) are also united by their nomadic, insecure, hired-to-be-fired career. With nobody else to look out for them, they typically look out for each other. That’s why they’re often found heaping praise on one another. They’ve already walked a mile in each other’s shoes and they know it’s a hard road.
Still, there’s praise and then there’s praise. When Pep Guardiola says of Antonio Conte “tactically, he’s a master,” it’s acknowledgement that Conte’s teams are hard to beat, not that he cares for the style of football involved.
Other times, though, it comes from the heart. When City beat Napoli in the Champions League, Pep said of Maurizio Sarri’s style, “they are one of the best teams I think in Europe – probably the best team I’ve faced in my career”.
Did he mean it? All signs point to yes. Found by a reporter at a charity golf tournament in Italy, and asked about Maurizio Sarri’s imminent move to the Premier League, Pep doubled down.
“I have no doubts that Sarri is one of the best managers out there. He achieved something incredible with Napoli. His style of football is as good as a drink in the sun. It was great to see Napoli games. It would be a pleasure to meet him in England.”
Sure, Pep. That sounds nice. But Sarrismo, while pretty to watch, hasn’t actually won its inventor any trophies. Seriously, what’s the man missing?
“Nothing. Sometimes it’s the small details that make the difference, if Juventus had lost at San Siro against Inter, Napoli would probably would have won [the scudetto]. It’s also a matter of luck, for example I was lucky to win thanks to very strong teams and very strong companies and this in the end makes our job easier.“
-Pep Guardiola; source: RMC Sport via I Am Naples
To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about Pep Guardiola loving our (probable) new manager as much as he seems to. I like to dislike him.
It’s unsettling. But it’s also nice to hear affirmation from a man who has an idea or two about what successful football looks like.