Thus Spoke Zlatanusthra

Pep Guardiola may not exist as you think he does. If you thought he existed as the head coach of FC Barcelona, you got another think coming. For on August 29, Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaped from the club baths, draped a towel toga-style round his Greek-statuesque midsection, raised his Roman-aquiline nose to the heavens, smacked his head and cried, ‘Eureka! before running out to the media multitudes and declaring: ‘Guardiola is not a coach, but a philosopher’ [1]. But what sort of philosopher is Pep, a.k.a. Josephus Guardiolus (b. 1971 AD)?

The historical record leaves us few utterances, let alone eloquent statements. Guardiolus so guards his peace that his players — not only Ibrahimovic, but Seydou Keita also –- cannot identify their coach’s voice when he leaves messages on their answering machines. This leads to bewilderment, as well as extra laps when they arrive late to rescheduled practices. Like Socrates, Guardiolus is an enigma, and we must don our thinking caps with little whirly-gigs on top in order to deduce his system of thought.

Guardiolus’ predecessor is Cruiffedes (b. 1947 AD), who developed the theory of Total Football, as well as muttered a number of axioms. Some of these are Classical paradoxes: “Every disadvantage has its advantage”; “Italians can’t defeat you but you can lose to them”; or “Football is simple, but the hardest thing in the world is to play simple football”. Others are statements of the obvious: “You’ve got to shoot or you can’t score” or “If we have the ball, they can’t score”. But most are exteroceptivist: “You won’t see it until you’ve got it”; “When you see a player sprinting, he left too late”; and “If I start running a little earlier, I’ll seem faster” – the last a possible contestation to Zeno’s (b. 489 BC) ‘Achilles and the Tortoise’.

At times, Guardiolus references Cruiffedes directly. For example, Cruiffedes’ “If I wanted you to understand, I would have explained it better” anticipates Guardiolus’ “There is always a reason for everything, but I keep it to myself”. An Aristotelian strain of causality may be identified therein as well. According to the General Repository of Human Knowledge, Wikipedia: “Causality is the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is a consequence of the first”. For example, when a club purchases a player for 46 million euros one season and then transfers him via a loan-with-option deal for 24 million the next, men exhaust themselves trying to identify a rational cause. Saith the Wiki: “Rationalism typically starts from premises that cannot be denied [i.e., ‘That is a lot of *&%$# money’] then attempts by logical steps to deduce every possible object of knowledge [i.e.: ‘what’s the big idea’; ‘who came up with that brilliant idea’; ‘does the club have any change left over for the lockerroom vending machines’, etc.] Thus Guardiolus implies that the cause for taking a 20 million euro hit on his 9 can be deducted rationally, but his reluctance to articulate it is purely Cruiffedean.

If Guardiolus is a rationalist rather than a causist, his philosophical master is Parmenides (b. 500 BC), who posited the ‘Third Man Argument’. Philosophically, the Third Man Argument states that 1) thinking undeniably exists; 2) the object of thought also exists; and 3) the object exists independent of thought. The argument can be illustrated in practical terms as follows: If I have the Best All-Around Offensive Player in the World on my squad, and then I contract the Best Striker in Spain, I don’t need a Third Man. Another illustration follows: If I want Messi to move about freely from wing to center to wing, and I have wingment aplenty to support him, then I don’t need no Third Man taking up space in front of the net. (The Hunky Soccer Husband has always advocated the latter as Guardiolus’ true cause, and believes Cruiffedes to be the Master Mind behind it as well.)

Guardiolus has puzzled many a footballosopher before. Barcelona’s previous 9, Samuel Eto’o, was dispatched likewise: “The problem with Eto’o has to do with a feeling”. The philosophical expression — again, cited from Its Wikiness — is Weiss and Cropanzano’s ‘Affective Events Theory’. This theory states that events influence feelings which influence behaviors. Furthermore, feelings which emerge from similar themes may occur repeatedly. Guardiolus’ “The person always goes before the player”, derived from his externoception of Eto’o, suggests that his personal interactions with Eto’o — regardless of his pitch-perfect performances — (events) inspired a state of constant annoyance (feeling), which in turn influenced him to open the door wide and push Strikerus Maximus Africanus through it (behavior).

An earlier statement of Guardiolus provides another clue: “For the good of the club, it’s better that I don’t comment.” For the good of the club leads us to ethics, the study of virtue. Ethicist Immanuel Kant posited the ‘categorical imperative’, which may be interpreted here as Guardiolus’ obligation to be a good coach. The exact nature of Guardiolan goodness, however, may depend on the season’s outcome. For example, if David Villa scores more than 21 goals and FC Barcelona wins beaucoup silver, we may call Guardiolus an ethical consequentialist (his actions are ‘good’ because their effects are positive). If Guardiolus is a deontologist, he acted according to his ethical obligation to perform his contractual duties with the suits in the upper-level offices (e.g., Sandro Rosell) as well as the players on his bench (e.g., Ibra). And if the Camp Nou fills to its uppermost beams with gleeful ‘Tot el Camp’ songsters, then Guardiolus will have succeeded á là utilitarianist John Stuart Mill, by bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number.

Irrespective of the Great Guardiolus and his Grey Matter, an appropriate philosophical attitude for the general azulgrana faithful would be a Sartrean (or, in my case, a de Beauvoirean) existentialism, centered from “a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.”

School’s back in session. Hit those books!

–SoMa, Philosophiae Doctora

[1] El original es infiel a la traducción. – Jorge Luis Borges.

Categorized as Barcelona

By SoccerMom

SoccerMom obsesses over FCB and this blog instead of grading papers, burning dinner and/or raising her small children. She blames a Spanish husband and easy access to Hispanic-targeted cable sports channels for her football addiction and consequent failure as a professor, housekeeper and mother.


  1. well, nobody acknowledged my kurtis blow reference in the previous thread. you guys arent worthy.

    at least SoMa shows appreciation for the cultural-philosophical masters. it’s not kurtis blow, but it’s something.

    1. “Breaks in love, breaks in war, we got the breaks to get you on the floor!”

      Showing my age, I was shimmying til’ the break of dawn to that song when it first came out. From rap’s happier, more innocent times. I also remember hearing a promo single of “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and thinking “Damn!”

  2. I think Crackovia would do well to write a skit based on this post – they’re totally leaning that way anyway with their depictions of Pep.

    But I’ll admit I’m with Sartre/Beauvoir.

    Bravo SoccerMom!

  3. I have always found the axioms of Cruiffedes to be similar in nature to those of Maddenopoulos, that profound sage of the football heresy found in the west. Philosophies may vary, but enigmas are universal and eternal.

    I apply a slightly different Sartean lesson to the Barca situation: there is no intrinsic purpose or meaning to Barca’s existence, so the only thing that matters is Barca’s actions on the field.

  4. great read Soma…if I had have the smarts and wit of you, I’d take on a poststructuralist read, I think Derrida might have much to say about discourse and context 🙂

    Wonderful stuff and of worthy procrastination value for me!

  5. Getting out of lurkdom to congratulate the author of this rocking post. SoMa, I wish you were my mom.

  6. Thus spoke SoccerMama, one of the great clan of sages who regularly give discourses on ‘la filosofia’..
    Rumour has it that one of the clansmen has converted to a Queen.. Is it true?

  7. Awesome read.

    Cannot wait for tommorow. I hope its a clean and fun match. Would love a 5-5 draw:).

  8. I’ll read later, love filosofia… just wanted to say that NOLITO RULES, I’m even considering a change in my avatar 😀

  9. awesome post. first time i read cruijffisms in another language than Dutch, indeed they are well-known back home.

  10. Thus spake ZaraSoMa. (I just knew you had to be in philosophy!) Pep seems to be doing Zarathustra’s work, clearing the way for the Overteam by ridding the club of negativity. Guardiolus understands that the Overteam is only possible after all values are affirmative, life-enhancing ones. As Nietzsche and Isaiah/QE3 might put it, “Remain faithful to the Pep.” Congrats, SoMa, on another great post.
    -From another Phil Phud.

  11. The Swiss Rambler agrees with Ramzi and Euler:

    “The reality is that Barcelona backed themselves into a corner. As Milan appeared to be the only game in town, Barcelona had absolutely no leverage during the negotiations. They really should have tried harder to interest other clubs in the player, so that they could encourage a bidding war, especially Manchester City, the one club that has the riches to pay a much higher price, as we saw with Yaya Toure. City’s absence from the negotiating table seems even stranger when you consider Ibra’s connection to their manager, Roberto Mancini, who had bought him when he was at Inter.”

    1. True, but it was my understanding that Ibra didn’t want to go to Man City though. Which brings us to another problem: Ibra himself had more leverage than Barça also, due to his enormous wages we couldn’t have Hlebbed him into the stands if he decided to disrupt team harmony. First of all the player had all the power to decide which team was acceptable to him, thus giving that team all the power to decide how little they would offer to offload our problem.

  12. that was fantastic…I have a quote from NN Taleb too

    “The exact opposite of the philosopher is the tourist. A tourist is someone who follows commodified, commercialized & simplified maps, their cultural tastes lined-up to some well-described middlebrow canon, with a desire to “optimize” with SHORTCUTS; in other words, Procrustean beds. Exactly the opposite of a flaneur.”

  13. And another thing about this post. I’m a full-time, word bandying journalist, and I don’t mind saying, a damn talented writer. Nothing excites me more than reading something that I could never have, in a million years, done.

    I always like people who visit contemporary art museums and say “Hell, I could have done that!” Well, yes. You could have. But it’s the idea that is priceless.

    When you combine idea with execution, as SoMa has done here, you get a piece of joy that, were I a first-time visitor to this space, would have me hooked like a drug dealer who gives you a great dose and says “First one’s free, baby!”

    –And the analysis by Swiss Ramble really is a must-read. It’s brilliant. It doesn’t exactly cover us with glory, but it’s a must-read, nonetheless.

  14. And I will put a mini news post here rather than doing a new post. I don’t want anything to supersede this bit of brilliance just yet.

    –Suarez (who is repped by Guardiola’s brother) still likes him some Barca, but explains his decision to stay in Sport. He uses fancy words, but the reality is that he wasn’t going to be getting a whole lot of time, and is better served polishing his apple at Ajax. Here’s hoping he can do some damage to EE, as well.

    –Cruijff says to Rosell and crew in his column, “It’s time to quit trying to make Laporta look bad before you damage the sporting project, you big dummies.”

    –Puyol might be available for Hercules, which brings to mind the headline “Hercules available for Hercules.” His injury is (imagine that!) progressing much faster than people thought, with a duration, saith the cynics, of the end of the Spain friendly.

    –There will be a code of ethics regarding financial transactions and the club, the clear message from Rosell and the boys, who must not read Cruijff’s column, that “Man, that scumbag Laporta did some skanky crap. We’re going to institute an ethical code that will hamstring his ilk from now until forever. Did we mention that Laporta sucks? Just checking. Thank you.”

    The new code of ethics will aim at “ensuring excellence, transparency and honesty in the management of the club through a commission to monitor this.

    “The ban on hiring relatives, making the club incur undue expense, receive commissions, or act contrary to the positive image of the club,” are some of the stated objectives.

    –Tito Vilanova speaks up for midgets, work rate and ulitmately, one more clue to why BANGS couldn’t cut it:

    “We played unlike other teams …. The advantage is that we have spent two years working together, and the team knows what to do.

    “Many times, there are 20 players in 20 or 30 meters. It is normal for smaller players to move much better in such small spaces.”

    Hmmmm ….

    –HeWhoWeHopeWillNotCome is in the news again, with comments that imply that he is being kept against his will, saith the BritPress. Sighhhh. The relevant quote, which might or might not be made up:

    “Barcelona did all they could to sign me, but Arsenal told me I had to stay, that there was no way they were going to let me go.

    “In the end I had to stay, but the contents of my conversation with (manager) Arsene Wenger will remain private.”

    –Also in the BritPress is that Arsene Wenger is keen on one Oriol Romeu. So I have to ask at this point: When Sport says that we are after Fabregas, and it is damned as the media being part of our nefarious plot to sign the Arsenal captain, what are we to make of English press entities saying the same things about Arsenal and Oriol Romeu, who is being touted as “the next Fabregas,” presumably in that he will leave us in search of fame and playing time.

    Just asking.

    1. he also said something else that was quite interesting. he said as long as Ibra tried to adapt his game to the team, it worked fine. once he tried to adapt the team to his game, it went horribly wrong.
      also his stuff on Messi and that he was always a great goalscorer but he was forced to play on the wing, but he was so freaking good that he just adapted to the game, was interesting.
      overall great interview.

  15. This post makes my brain hurt, but in a good way. Philosophy was never my strong point, as a (former) archaeologist I prefer to deal in tangibles. But I can certainly recognize greatness when I see it. Thank you, SoMa, for putting everything in perspective, I see it all now.

    And a Happy Labour Day to you all, wherever you are!

  16. The essential Nietzschian quote that could be used to describe Pep’s philosophy come from his “The Birth of Tragedy”

    To paraphrase: “IT is only the beautiful life that is worth living.”

    Or to Pep: “It is only the beautiful game that is worth playing.”

  17. Loved, loved, loved, this post!

    I can almost picture Ibrahimovic buying his ticket to the Vatican museum, desperately searching for Guardiolus as rendered in the School of Athens…

    The whole situation has been so absurd tongue planted firmly in cheek seems like the most appropriate point of view.

    As disastrous as the deal was financially, Ibra’s petty remarks since the sale have only painted him in a worse light and Guardiola in a better one. They’ve explicitly shown and demonstrated what Guardiola didn’t care to explain in the first place past his cryptic Guardiolus phrase about the person and the player.

    1. Reg Ibra’s comments: Comments of a man with ego and pride after being insult-fully transferred few days after he was bragging about being in the best club in the world to stay. I dare to say I expected each and every statement he said in one way or another. Beside one smart statement where he sent a message to his new employers, Milan: “I am a 28 years old player who is not here to fight for a spot or anything. I consider my place in the starting lineup a given! dont claim later that you haven’t been told!” Out of all the rubbish he said, that was evil-ingly smart.

    1. I mean to do that you’d have to get somebody to design a new, better banner. It’s a good thing nobody did that, say 6 or so months ago. And made a background. But that didn’t happen. Or did it? SoMa has made me question existence. Or made me question questioning existence. I don’t really know anything. Anymore.


    1. Not a solipsist. He just believes Barca functions with “collective intentionality”:

    1. Whoa, got me imagining Spike following Pep and the team on a year long campaign, and the movie that might result from it.

  18. Not to completely flog an expired equine, but totalbarca has a translation of an interview Xavi did with EMD, and he has this to say about the Ibra situation:

    EMD: Mascherano has arrived and Ibra has left in a disappointing way. What happened with Ibra?

    Xavi: He left due to footballing reasons. Pep and Zubi have made that clear. He didn’t fit in with the system and with the way that Pep wanted the central forward to play. It’s disappointing because we got along well with him but Pep told him he wouldn’t be playing as much as he wanted which led to his departure.”

    I don’t think it can get much clearer than that.

  19. In other news, it looks like we’re walking the “versatility is our depth” route

    Tito Vilanova: “Right now we have 19, but it is basically 24, with four or five players who can cover up to eight positions.”

    -The agent of the Third Man is still talkin’ smack. Man Citeh was an option “economically” but wasn’t going to win anything anytime soon, so it was a no-go. Bleh.

    I’m missing the match tomorrow 🙁 Darn you, education! But if it makes me write anything like SoMa…

    1. Wait a second… it’s being played at 10pm in Argentina, not Spain, so 10pm in Buenos Aires means…


    2. i notice that too.
      that’s why im always confused between the two of them.
      or are they the same person??? hehe

    1. Yeah, just one hour ahead. I didn’t even calculate, I just went off the time it was being played here.

  20. Very, very, sensual post….

    And, I say who is the man behind the curtain?

    Is the Pep the man or is it as you say Cruiffedes?

    I can see the Pep as the man behind the curtain and can be the natural progression of the Cruiffedes. But, is this too premature yet? Or could it be the antithesis of what you seek? Just because you have the name of manager it does not mean you have the philosophy or insight of the man you seek.

    “Beware the ides of march.” Tough times are a coming.

    The tongue is powerful. But, the record is permanent! Has Barca prepared for the tongue or the record?

  21. I love Guardiolus. But let’s take care of Morihnopolis before we start immortalizing and making comparisons to Cruffidicus.

  22. Cruijff is the man behind the curtain who appointed Pep to be the man.

    Other than that Pep makes his own decisions. Is he influenced by Cruijff? Of course he is.

    “Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barca’s subsequent coaches must merely restore and improve it.”

    -Pep Guardiola

  23. What do you guys make of Arsenel’s interest in Oriol Romeu?
    I find it quite concerning since he still hasn’t signed a pro-contract with us.

    1. I think there may be more truth than just blatant rumor here, although with Rosell in charge, he will make sure that a similar cesc episode doesn’t occur while he is in charge. It would great if he signed a contract with us and then went on loan to Arsenal for a couple of years and came back like Pique did with Man. U. Plausible?

      I have another question. I heard about this ages ago and found it on Wiki..

      “In 1943 Barcelona faced rivals Real Madrid in the semi-finals of Copa del Generalísimo. Their first match at Les Corts was won by Barcelona 3–0. Before the second leg, Barcelona’s players had a changing room visit from Franco’s director of state security. He ‘reminded’ them that they were only playing due to the ‘generosity of the regime’. Real Madrid dominated the match, winning 11–1.”

      Is there any truth to this story? some sources say it’s not true at all.

    2. From what Clues told me during my last visit to Barcelona, this is true. And with regards to the old french weasel Wenger snooping around Oriol, don’t be surprised if we use him as a counter weight in any Cesc deal, once we sign him to a pro contract, which hopefully is soon, we have leverage to add him in any deal with the North London Douchbags to bring Cesc over. He will be cheap (first pro contract), and we all know that the Arsenal does not like to pay their players. I can foresee paying 35 plus Oriol for Cesc, valuing the whole deal at around 41-44 million euros, depending on the clubs valuation of a talented young cantera. Which begs the question, is our canter the best in the world, and will clubs pay inflated prices for our products because they are associated with us. It is kind of like people paying for a pair of Jordan’s (shoes), its all in the name.

    3. Well that is the problem.

      in your case, we are offering our youth products to Arsenal.

      shouldn’t we be showing that we want to keep our youth products? if we were showing a need to keep our youth then their price tag will obviously be worth a lot.

      But if we don’t need the youth players, then we have no real negotiation power do we?

    4. I agree with you completely, I would hate to loose Oriol to Arsenal or anyone else, my only concern is he may see the writing on the wall with Biscuts and Masch getting 99% of the playing time at DM over the next 3 years, and we all know that Sandro has been waiting in line to take a ride on Cesc’s dick all summer so I would not doubt he would jump at the deal.

  24. wonderful, wonderful post! & a jorge luis borges footnote; you rock!

    just got back from vegas. i’ve got me some catching up to do in the physical & metaphysical futbol world.

  25. Looks like Wenger will have to wait a bit for Romeu. 😀 We reached agreement with him through 2013.

    –And in the “proof that players shouldn’t be managers” category, Vincent Kompany is amazed that we let The Yaya leave. I reckon in his coaching future, he’ll be willing to cede team control to the players. We roll a bit differently here.

    –Robinho’s assertions continue that “Barcelona wanted me! No! Really!” despite the fact that Guardiola kept rejecting the transfer, for good reasons.

    –Finally, word is coming out of Portugal that Guardiola put the kibosh on the chance to sign Jughead (Di Maria), preferring to use players from the youth program rather than popping for the Argentine. Makes sense to me.

    1. saved ourselves 30 million dollars there.

      I don’t mind what Kompany said, many people I know don’t think Yaya is worth $200,000 a week, but I keep insisting that he is definetly worth the money. Yaya needed a new challenge, it would have been hard for him to say motivated and well the good thing is that we made a lot of dough from selling him.

    2. This is rehashing the old ground.

      The move was partly money, partly playing with his own brother and mainly sporting decision. Yaya wanted guarantee that he will start over Busi in major matches (last year Busi was ahead of Yay) and that Pep would not promise. Similar thing to Ibra. My faith in british sport journalism is at absolute low nowadays. Their record of lies speaks for itself.

  26. *


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  27. Barça B plays Brazil at 11 am EST and Spain U21 plays at the same time. I’ll be watching both, hopefully.

  28. “Cesc carries Barcelona in the heart, in his DNA…therefore it is impossible for him to forget about them. ”

    Yep, it is Fabregas being tapped up by…..

    Thomas Vermaelen! LOL

    (source football365)

  29. Barca B 2-0 down. Two silly goals given up and they look pretty tentative. Boring game, I’ll pay more attention to Bojan and Thiago w/ Spain. Thiago is doing well so far… Bojan hasn’t touched it much.

    Also, everyone who started against Xerez is on the bench against Brazil, so maybe when they come on, the team will look better.

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