Guardiola returns. “Booooo!”, aka “When a friend becomes an enemy”

Pep Guardiola is, for many culers, coming home today.

After all, the coach who led FC Barcelona is returning, to sonnets of praise and rose-strewn paths. Those times were wonderful – Coldplay, weeping, trophies and victory parades – and the memories will always remain. Silver!

The complexity with the incestuous world of football, where today’s star player is tomorrow’s bitter rival is what to do when something like this happens.

To my view, Pep Guardiola is an enemy scout, seeking the best way to destroy Barça, should it come to that. I would sit his ass behind a post somewhere in the 400 section. Whether this makes me a myopic, spiteful little git or culer to the bone depends on worldview. But I will vehemently resist anything that wants to hurt my club and its team, from ill-intentioned presidents to former coaches who now head Bayernsliga juggernauts. If Messi leaves Barça for a rival and I am at a match at which he plays, I will boo, and wish him the finest in complete and utter failure.

And that’s the complexity in a game that lauds loyalty while it necessitates migration. A player starts with a club, reaches the point where he has to consider moving to that next level. This might mean leaving the club he has grown up with, because not every club has a cradle-to-retirement structure such as Barça. And that is where the weird part comes in on so many levels, because football reveres its stars in a way that hardly any other sport does. But migration is the qualm-inducing reality of that reverence as it forces supporters to come to terms with feelings best left unvisited. Rivals must be vanquished, and our heroes must triumph.

On the pitch, supporters have different ways of managing that. Some support the club, viewing players as agents of that entity. Others are fans of players, and remain that way no matter where the player goes. Others still become supporters of a club because of a player, and switch clubs with the player. That rivalry expands to club allegiance. When Chelsea supporters were caught on video committing a racist act against a black man on a Paris Metro platform, it was easy for other club supporters to snuffle indignantly. Players misbehave, and supporters smugly assert that “our” players are better than that. When they aren’t, other complex moments rear their heads as players and coaches shuttle to and fro.

When Luis Suarez was being convicted of racist speak and having Chiellini for a mid-match snack, culers scoffed and jibed. “Oh, the excesses! What a maniac!” Then he transferred to Barça, and “Anyone deserves a second chance” became the phrase of the day. Luis Figo went from hero to pig’s head target. And now Pep Guardiola, the man who said something like “Sheeit! Hit me in the head with a hammer,” when asked if he would consider returning to FC Barcelona, is coming back to take notes on the best way to destroy my team.

I can’t get excited about that. Sorry.

It’s like when players score against their former team, and there is some sort of goofy protocol that dictates a player not celebrating. What the hell is THAT about? It’s one thing to be a Sultan of Sulk like Balotelli, who doesn’t celebrate goals because that’s his job. “The mailman doesn’t celebrate delivering the mail!” I can appreciate that logic a lot more than I can appreciate the “I won’t celebrate out of respect for the supporters.” You just scored a goal! Do you think that not celebrating is going to somehow salve the wound?

When Danny Welbeck scored against Manchester United, the team that jettisoned him because he, in effect, didn’t score enough, that United was correct in that decision is immaterial. He scored a goal, a goal that put paid to United’s FA Cup dreams, and he celebrated. He celebrated like a player who was giddy with the joy of scoring the potential game winner in a big match that could lead his team to silverware. As you placate one group of supporters, what about the ones for the team you now play for? Welbeck grinned, and strutted and enjoyed the moment, protocol be damned.

I like that.

Coaches and players come and go, as they should. When someone is with a club or team they are fully deserving of all the support that fans can give. But when that person decides to leave, especially to a direct rival who was, not that long ago, responsible for inflicting one the most grievous wounds to a club, a team and its supporters, what is the correct course of action? It is here that respect and support butt heads. You’re a crazy culer if you don’t respect and admire the hell out of Pep Guardiola for what he did for Barça. You’re probably even too crazy to form words, preferring to communicate by throwing spoons and grunting.

But in the here and now, he wants to hurt your team.

Football loves the gesture. A player is fouled, and writhes in agony until sacred water from a magic bottle is dribbled onto his grievous injury and like the miracles of Lourdes, praise be! He lives! Opposing players are given ovations for a match well played. Liga opponents cheer Andres Iniesta as he comes off, in respect for the World Cup-winning goal that he scored for Spain.

I’m a churl. When people go, they’re gone. But I also read things given to me such as birthday cards, say “Thank you” and then bin them. Moving on. When I was at the Champions League match that featured Samuel Eto’o in an Inter shirt, I booed the hell out of him. I booed until I felt short of breath, dealt with the dizziness and booed some more. Damn right. He’s the enemy. He kicked ass and took names while at Barça. When he now wants to do the same for a rival, scorn it is. I respect his accomplishments in the colors, but when he dons the tunic of the enemy my respect remains as my rancor builds. I think that makes me a supporter who is all in, rather than some fickle fiend who doth not respect his history.

It also fits my worldview of players and coaches as agents who are there to help the club that I love have success. I am no longer interested in them when they leave. Doesn’t mean Keita, for example, isn’t still Keiteeeee when I watch those moments when he stomped the terra while clad in blaugrana, or that he isn’t an all-around cool dude. But my heart is so full of Barça that I don’t have room for players and coaches, particularly ones who want to break my heart.

So when the camera pans to Guardiola at today’s match, sitting in the stands to make mental notes on how to make me and all culers sad, forgive my lack of swooniness and “Oh, Pep!” moments. He is an enemy combatant who my rock-hard little heart will view as such.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

32 Comments

  1. georgjorge
    March 18, 2015

    For one, I don’t exactly understand the need to boo players or coaches just because they’re playing for another team now. I’d shout at them if they behaved like Diego Costa in-game or talked shit about Barca outside the game at every opportunity, but not if they were just there playing the game.

    I also am able to “move on”, but I don’t see the harm in applauding players or coaches who have done great things for Barca. It just shows them respect without enhancing their ability to “harm” Barca in-game in any way (might even make them teary-eyed 😉 ). I also appreciate it when Xavi or Iniesta are applauded while playing at other venues in Spain, and think some respect and appreciation for players at other teams might make this sport a bit less hostile and serious.

    • dl
      March 18, 2015

      Great thing about football is that it is the world itself. There’s room enough for churls, villains, saints, heros with feet of clay, and just normal kids who like to kick the ball. And also just like the world, in fact there is very little black and white — nearly everything is some shade of gray. RM? Sometimes they are something other than simply evil. Barca? Sometimes it is something other than simply good. Pep? ……

    • Jim
      March 18, 2015

      Yeah, I’ve always admired the Spanish mentality where Xavi and Iniesta are applauded on and off pitches in Spain. That has to be good for the game in terms of respect. Wouldn’t happen in my country. That’s for sure.

      With regard to Guardiola I’d be happy to give him respect ( applause ?) etc before the game because he’s not opposing us tonight. Bit cold to treat him as the enemy when he’s visiting and happy with whatever he sees cos he knows we’ll be burning to revenge the last game. Gives us a bit of class imo. Still hacked off at him for stringing us along that last season ( not to mention 3 at the back and various player decisions) but hey, he brought back small players, the passing game and beautiful football so we’ll always owe him for that.

  2. Jim
    March 18, 2015

    Well, here we go. Really interested to see how City approach this. If they sit back they’re dead. If they try to press hard on Masch, Mathieu and Rakitic things could get interesting – for a while.

  3. kosby
    March 18, 2015

    It was awesome to see the reaction from Pep when Messi did his magic..

    More discussion on the article later – once this match is done 🙂

  4. agar2515
    March 18, 2015

    Totally your prerogative to feel this way. For me I will forever be grateful to him for what he’s done and could never possibly under a negative word at him.
    What if Xavi decides to coach a mid tier Liga team to cut his teeth? Puyol?
    I couldn’t possibly actively root against them/hiss at them if they scouted us.
    But to each their own.
    Also, Rakattack my man. It sure is nice having a key midfielder that doesn’t go missing in the later, important stages of the season. Ahem.

  5. Ryan
    March 18, 2015

    What a keeper we have!

    • Ryan
      March 18, 2015

      And City as well… so many saves from Hart tonight.

    • Jim
      March 18, 2015

      Yeah, although tbf our finishing wasn’t great. You’d expect him to save most of them. As he said after the game ” they hit me a lot”. Still credit to him. He was their best player and between them and a hiding. However, a really good game from us. You just have to wonder at Leo. Glad he took a bit of a rest in the second half. Mind you, Sod’s law in that every time he took a nap we broke and he had to sprint forty yards !

      Tiring game though in that they pressed well in the last twenty just when we didn’t really want to work hard.

    • barca96
      March 18, 2015

      Like Jim said, most of them were directly to him. But good goalkeeping on 2 Messi dribbles and Messi’s turn and shot though. On the latter I thought Messi should’ve laid it off though as they have a better view on goal.

  6. Shaco
    March 18, 2015

    Lets hope for Barca-Monaco and RM-Atletico in quarters!

  7. Inamess
    March 18, 2015

    Nice Match. MSN 1 Post/Hart 0. Some observations:

    1) I would have loved to decimate City and sent their franchise into free fall but a win is a win and we won[‘t see them again until same round next year. Are they becoming our new Arsenal?

    2) Masch had a good match and should be fine for the Classico.

    3) Don’t know what to make of Alves’ yellow. Is that something that should have been avoided?

    4) The most underrated aspect of our season may be how much better we are at defending setpieces. Makes watching the game way less nerve-racking.

    • ooga aga
      March 18, 2015

      yes, alves should not have been slapping at silva. just stupid from our #22.

  8. barca96
    March 18, 2015

    Again a superb first half. But as we missed chances after chances I became worried that it might come back to haunt us. Stressful 2nd half for me.

    What a piss poor finishing night. Either hitting the ball directly to the goalkeeper or going for goal from an acute angle and not squaring the ball to a team mate who’s clear on goal. I hope the players practice their shooting and start to be unselfish again. A better quality would’ve punished us.

    Besides that there were a lot of poor passes. Rakitic was guilty of a lot of them.

    Pique a rock once again. Matthieu needs to seriously clear the ball better. Alves needlessly picked up a yellow card.

    This was really unnecessary. If they were more clinical in the final third they could’ve saved some energy for el Clasico. Messi was even defending deep in our half.

    After the first leg I realized that this team could’ve cemented its legacy even more by scoring more goals. Like in Man City 1st leg, tie should’ve been over in the 1st half itself. Then I look back at the 2009 and 2011 final. We were by far the better team but 10 years down the line, people look back at the score line, they would think that we were not that much better. Next generation like 20+ years later, they wouldn’t even know how superior we were. Both the finals if they were more clinical it would’ve been a 4-5 goal margin.

    We need to smash teams how Bayern smashed us and they were not even that much better compared to the 2 finals and this City tie but the 3-0 and 4-0, 5-0 & 6-2 vs Madrid will be remembered by many and be known by future generations due to the high score line.

    • ooga aga
      March 18, 2015

      you dont cement a legacy by scoring lots of goals in the round of 16 vs man city. you have to win titles. yeah, our finishing wasnt great but in the end it doesnt matter. hopefully weve exorcised the bad luck and our shooting boots will be on a bit better in the next match.

  9. Shaco
    March 18, 2015

    and wow, i just watched that penalty again. Aguero actually stepped on Pique’s foot and then lost balance, crazy call but great save.

    • barca96
      March 18, 2015

      If Aguero scored It would’ve been really stressful. The players really need to work on their finishing and get their unselfishness back.

    • Inamess
      March 18, 2015

      I thought it was a bad call too. What about the off-sides on Alba’s goal? I couldn’t really tell

    • G6O
      March 18, 2015

      It wasn’t – he was on the line of the ball. But it happened extremely fast so it’s an understandable mistake. And, of course, Neymar should have buried it directly

  10. Jim
    March 18, 2015

    Love Henry’s comment on the penalty when asked if it was a bad one.

    “It was only bad because the keeper went the right way. If he’d gone the other way we’d have been praising Aguero for sending him the wrong way”

    Exactly, Thierry. There speaks a man who has been there . . .

  11. raj
    March 18, 2015

    That guy Joe Hart, he might have just saved Manuel Pellegrini’s job.

  12. lala10
    March 18, 2015

    Good win from my view. We did not have to run a lot as we have a game coming up. As for the misses they happen. On any given we should at least create chances, which we abundantly did. What goes on after that is fate. Glad Mr Messi plays for our team. Lucky we.

  13. Jamal103
    March 18, 2015

    After a while, I lost count of how many headers Pique cleared from set pieces. It’s honestly ridiculous.

    Last note, if we play Bayern, Guardiola is going to make sure the left flank that Messi always passes to is blocked/occupied. It’s pretty blatant where Messi will pass to when he cuts outside.

    • Davour
      March 18, 2015

      Sure he will – but then someone must be out there, which means one man less in the middle and more space to thread it to someone or shoot. He has solutions, the wee man…

      Yes, Piqué has a wonderful season. Would not trade him for anyone.

  14. georgjorge
    March 18, 2015

    This would have been a very complete game from the team – defense, midfield and attack – had it not been for the impressive wastefulness directly in front of goal. Score one or two of these chances, and Iniesta + Pique can come off to rest for Sunday. I don’t even think it has to do much with selfishness – in the first half, on some occasions Neymar or Suarez would have been better off shooting than passing – just lots of wrong decisions there. Still, the team showed how it can dominate and create chances in an important game, and it was impressive.

    Messi…can’t say anything that hasn’t been said. He seemed to have fun today.

  15. dl
    March 18, 2015

    Got to watch the game and my goodness what a spectacle. Great team play, messi was toying with people, and it looks like neither team could buy a goal (though the one we did get was a beauty). Conditions looked really sloppy, and I think that affected most of our misses. A drier day and we’d have driven many more home.

  16. Jamal103
    March 18, 2015

    Via Barcastuff:

    Mascherano: “Even if that would mean I’d be on the bench, I really hope Busquets can be ready for Sunday. I never can be like him.” #fcblive

    I cannot think of anyone more deserving of captaincy in the coming years..

    • barca96
      March 19, 2015

      Mascherano’s presets gives me goosebumps. This man is a man of all men.

  17. FCB16
    March 18, 2015

    Raise your hand if you still miss Cesc “Houdini” Fabregas? Exactly

  18. luisthebeast
    March 18, 2015

    In two games we made a team of top class players,the english champions,look like an average team.Messi was amazing but for me the whole team,every player was very good.We are a little tired but i am sure on Sunday we will see the best Barca of the season.Oh and i love MTS!!!

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