Manager Pep Guardiola is back in the limelight. His team, Manchester City, is currently on a 11-game unbeaten run.
The Spaniard, considered to be one of the best football managers in the world, is cooking up something special with the English side and parallels with his successful stints with Barcelona and Bayern Munich have already begun. Talk of City becoming the new ‘invincibles’ is also doing the rounds.
Guardiola’s journey towards achieving this success as manager began just over a decade ago. Fellow Spaniard Sergio Lobera had a ring-side view as the famed manager’s career began in full earnestness.
Lobera, who has taken charge as manager of FC Goa in the upcoming Indian Super League season, was part of the Barcelona coaching staff when a freshly retired Guardiola entered the fray as would-be manager.
It is, in fact, under Lobera that Guardiola earned his coaching license in 2005/06. Guardiola interned under Lobera as he looked to earn his license as a football manager.
Lobera turned coach at the age of 24. After impressing with Dosa Salesians and UFB Jabac Terrassa he signed with FC Barcelona in 1997. Working through the youth team set-up, he became coach of the side’s C team before being appointed the assistant manager of the senior team which was being managed by Tito Vilanova at the time.
As part of the coaching set-up, Lobera has had the chance to work in close quarters with bright minds like Guardiola, who made their name while at the famed Catalan club.
It is this experience that 40-year-old hopes to put in good use as manages FC Goa during the upcoming Indian Super League season.
Stepping into Zico’s boots
His task, though, is cut out for him. Lobera replaces Brazilian legend Zico, who quit as manager after a disastrous last season where the team finished bottom of the table.
Lobera, though, has a wealth of experience behind him, having been a professional coach for over 16 years. Other than Guardiola, another former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique was also Lobera’s ward as he too earned his license under Lobera’s tutelage.
“There is no pressure. I have worked with Tito Vilanova, Frank Rijkaard, Louis van Gaal while a part of the Barcelona coaching staff. Guardiola, Luis Enrique and Jordi Cruyff were interns under me while they worked to earn his coaching licenses,” Lobera said.
“As you work with such stalwarts, you’re bound to learn many nuances,” he added.
“When Guardiola was a player, he was already thinking like a manager. I learned a lot from him even when I would observe the way he spoke to the younger players in the dressing room. The way he guided these youngsters with his unique ideas, I knew then that he was on to something big,” Lobera added.
Lobera, however, wants to desist from aping others and believes in using their best traits and making it work for himself.
“One should never ape anyone. One has to invent his own style and implement it to the conditions at play,” Lobera says. “While one gains experience, you pick up different things from different people. One shouldn’t pick up one and say that is what I will follow. As managers A Guardiola is so different to Jose Mourinho. But, both are great at what they do. You pick out the best suits of each one and try to implement it in your own way.
“I have learnt from each one of my experiences. It is a combination of all these lessons that you will see me implement on the field.”