As the door closes on an incredible season for Bayern Munich, it's the perfect time to start wondering about how the next season will go for the German giants. Jupp Heynckes is on his way out -- and what a way to go! -- and Pep Guardiola will step in to manage the club. The release of Guillem Balague's new biography, Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning, couldn't have come at a better time.
Unfortunately, Balague's biography doesn't provide a lot of insight that will prove helpful in determining just how Pep might do the impossible: improve on a nearly-flawless Bayern side. Instead, much of his observations demonstrate just how intertwined Guardiola's management was with Barcelona's philosophy of football. The first half of the book looks at Pep's childhood, his time as a player with Barca, and his decision to pursue coaching at his beloved club. All this provides a great background to the manner in which Guardiola managed Barcelona, but tells us little about how he will manage his second club.
One of the book's primary weaknesses is that, after the story progresses from Pep's time as a player to his time in charge, the order is no longer chronological -- which can be quite confusing for anyone who is not a longtime supporter of Barcelona (or simply doesn't do well with remembering when specific matches occurred). While it is understandable that the author would want to separate sections such as "Pep and his Players" and "Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho", dividing up other high points of history, such as the 2-6 at the Santiago Bernabéu, or the Champions League finals, into non-chronological chapters, is more than a bit confusing. The reader is forced to wonder when, in Guardiola's four years, the particular event is occurring. Additionally, certain matches are covered twice or even three times, with no additional information included.
Where the book shines, however, is when Balague describes Pep's love for both the game and his players. The chapters regarding the men who played under Guardiola are the most illuminating, providing insights into not just the players' behavior, but the way the manager conducted himself with the various personalities who appeared at Barcelona. And although Balague rarely explicitly touches on the subject, the details surrounding Pep's interactions with his players show what might reflect a lack of willingness to compromise: those previously brought in by the club were often froze out by the manager, while those Guardiola himself pursued (such as Cesc Fàbregas) were given plenty of love and affection.
Even those who do not buy into the rosy picture often created of Guardiola -- that of his innate goodness, especially when set against Mourinho's evil -- would, after reading this book, find it difficult to argue that Pep truly cares about football and wants the best for his players and his club. However, the biography gives the impression that so much of Guardiola's passion stems from his love for Barcelona. With so much of his commitment to the game coming from his history with the club, it makes the reader wonder just what will happen when the Catalan takes over in Munich.
Bottom line: if you're a Barcelona supporter or just a big fan of Pep himself, this is one for you to read. But if you're looking for a more objective view of Guardiola's time with the club, or any thoughts as to how he'll do at Bayern, you won't find that in this biography.