Hristo Stoichkov has expressed his belief that Pep Guardiola’s “work was easy” at Barcelona, with the team already complete when he was handed the managerial reins.
Guardiola was given the top job at Camp Nou in 2008 after a successful spell in charge of the B team, replacing Frank Rijkaard in the hot seat.
Barca won an unprecedented treble in Guardiola’s first season in charge, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carlos Puyol all at the peak of the powers.
The Spanish head coach was widely praised for revolutionising Barca’s style of play, implementing his famous ‘tiki-taka’ philosophy based on quick passing interchanges and playing out from the back.
He finished his time at Camp Nou in 2012 with 14 major trophies to his name, including three La Liga titles and two European Cups, and took a year out from management before taking up a role at Bayern Munich.
Guardiola enjoyed similar success at the Allianz Arena, and has added even more silverware to his overflowing cabinet at Manchester City, but hasn’t conquered the Champions League since Barca’s 2011 triumph.
Stoichkov has now credited Rijkaard for creating arguably the finest side in football history instead of Guardiola, and feels “spectacular things would have been achieved” at Camp Nou regardless of the latter’s presence.
“Barcelona was already cooked,” the Barca legend told the Mirror. “Pep’s work was easy, as he knew perfectly well the infrastructure of the youth system.
“Frank Rijkaard made the squad Pep took over. Messi and other players had already debuted with Rijkaard. Spectacular things would have been achieved with Pep or without.
“There was Thierry Henry, Deco, Ronaldinho, Rafa Marquez, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes. There were a few players Pep needed to move, but Andreas Iniesta and Pedro came in, and there was more playing time for Lionel – then the team was complete.”
Stoichkov was more complimentary about Guardiola’s arch-rival Jose Mourinho, who has enjoyed a similarly successful managerial career over the past two decades.
Mourinho has also won two European Cups, along with league titles in England, Italy, Spain and Portugal – with spells taken it at Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
“He was a pretty smart boy. He looked at everything – from training and the warm-ups, to the work we did with the ball,” Stoichkov said of the Portuguese, who began his coaching journey as a number two at Barca. “Always a paper and a pen, always writing things down.”