Before embarking his coaching career, Pep Guardiola visited Marcelo Bielsa in Rosario, Argentina. Bielsa was, and, is a highly regarded coach in world football, so when Guardiola was suggested by Gabriel Batistuta to visit Bielsa, he did the same.
A lot of topics were touched in the conversation that followed between the two of them. Both of them have maintained mutual respect since. Guardiola has praised Bielsa a number of times and has also thanked him for shaping his career as a football manager.
When asked about the influence of the Argentine on him, he said, “I was not his player so it is difficult for me to talk about him, not being there, but I know the reference and influence for a thousand million players that did work with him.
“I was lucky to have the opportunity to talk with him, but for world football, his ethics, his behavior, the way his team plays, he is an authentic manager, his product is always incredible. Nobody can imitate him and that makes him special.”
More recently, he again expressed the admiration for the coach when Leeds won the promotion by saying, “He is unique in world football because of the special way he plays. I learned a lot about his style, his final product. He’s an incredible person, so special.”
Both managers are known for their deep thinking skills and imaginative tactical decisions. Anybody who watches football from the prism of tactics and formations would know what a special clash this is between two of the most influential coaches of all time in football.
However, there will be no “soft corner” for anyone. What is at stake should mean more than their friendship on Saturday night. It would be intriguing to see whether it is the master or the disciple that gets one over the other.