The Catalan coach took the Argentine forward to new heights at Barcelona – but he has now been on the receiving end of his talents on two occasions
Pep Guardiola has seen it all before. The Catalan coach led Barcelona to the greatest era in the club’s history with Lionel Messi at the forefront of his superb side between 2008 and 2012. But he created a monster – and now it keeps coming back to haunt him.
During his tenure at Camp Nou, Guardiola always admitted that Messi made the difference. “Without him, we would be competitive,” he often said. “But we wouldn’t have achieved all that we have.”
However, he had played his part in the Argentine’s astronomical rise to become the world’s finest footballer. Before Pep’s arrival as coach in 2008, Messi was fantastic yet fragile, mesmerising but also inconsistent. And his best return in front of goal was 17 over a single season.
In 2008-09, that changed dramatically. Messi looked fitter, faster and hungrier in a spectacular season in which he helped Barca to the treble and netted 38 goals along the way. “I play closer to the area now,” he would say. But it was much more than that. Pep paid attention to every detail of Leo’s game – and made him the best player in the world.