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Inside The Making Of A Super Club

Pep Guardiola’s exhilarating side is the tip of the iceberg at Manchester City. Investing locally, overseas, in youth and their women’s team, they’ve one goal: global domination.

It’s an early morning on the outskirts of Manchester city centre, and something rather unexpected has just happened. FourFourTwo has received a stinging whack to the ribs, and the man responsible is making a swift exit. He’s just under six feet tall, slim of build and dressed in black from head to toe. He’s also seen by many as the best football manager on the planet. He’s Pep Guardiola.

We’re pretty sure the Manchester City boss didn’t actually intend to inflict pain on FFT. Perhaps he just wasn’t aware of his own strength, as he shook our hand warmly and dished out a friendly slap to the chest on his way out of the room at the club’s training base, a few hundred metres from the Etihad Stadium. He has spent the past few minutes posing for pictures and he appears to be in a very good mood.

It would have been understandable if he wasn’t. Guardiola is a busy man – he’s preparing to take training in an hour or so – and two days earlier an impressive six-match winning start to the Premier League season had been brought to an end by Spurs. And yet, as FFT is granted exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the Catalan’s new home, this meeting offers a brief glimpse into his world, and an insight into why footballers love to play for him. Sometimes it’s all about the little details, such as the smile he offers as enters the room, then a greeting and a handshake for one and all. Guardiola understands how to get people onside from the start, and from there he has the charm and charisma to command a room.

Soon he’s exchanging quips as our photographer clicks away – but a request to appear thoughtful, stroking his chin, is politely declined. “No, I never pose like that – it’s fake, look,” he explains, briefly making the pose to demonstrate his point, adding a pout for comedic effect. “It doesn’t look natural, see? It’s fake!” He laughs. That’s the benefit of establishing an instant rapport: it allows him to put his foot down and do things how he believes they should be done, retaining his own clear sense of authenticity without putting noses out of joint.

That rapport the 45-year-old built with his playing squad upon arriving at City quickly paid dividends in the same way. The first 10 matches of his tenure brought 10 victories, 30 goals scored, and players swiftly adapting to the Guardiola way. No doubt that plenty of his charges have also been receiving friendly whacks to the ribs, from a man who’s big on tactility as well as tactics.

Words Chris Flanagan

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