Pep Guardiola salutes Terry Venables’ influence at Barcelona

Pep Guardiola salutes Terry Venables’ influence at Barcelona

MANCHESTER – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has paid tribute to the “incredible” Terry Venables, hailing his impact at his former club Barcelona in the 1980s.

After Venables died on Nov 25 aged 80, a picture emerged on social media showing a young Guardiola gazing up in admiration at the Englishman on the pitch of Barcelona’s Nou Camp.

Guardiola was a wide-eyed 15-year-old learning his trade in Barca’s youth academy back then, with the photo capturing him during his role as a ball boy for his club’s European Cup semi-final victory over Gothenburg in 1986.

The Catalan has his arms raised in celebration while Venables soaks in the acclaim of the crowd while being carried on the shoulders of two Barca players.

“As a Barcelona fan he gave us first La Liga after 11 years. His impact there was incredible,” Guardiola told reporters on Nov 27.

“He introduced something that had never been before, especially a certain type of pressing and the set pieces. I remember how many goals our central defender scored. It’s a big loss to English football.”

Guardiola went on to captain Barca and is regarded as one of their greatest managers, but the Spanish giants were not so dominant when Venables took charge in 1984.

Venables led Barcelona to their first La Liga title in 11 years in 1985 and took them to the European Cup final a year later before a shock defeat to Steaua Bucharest on penalties.

Guardiola might not have played for Venables, who went on to manage Tottenham and England, but he is well aware of the charismatic coach’s impact on his old club.

“I was only a ball boy but the impact in that time on the way they played. I remember talking to friends of mine who played with him and their words for him not just as a manager but as a person,” Guardiola said.

“He was so funny, singing Frank Sinatra on Catalan shows. He was a proper, proper man.”

Guardiola was speaking on the eve of City’s Champions League clash with RB Leipzig at the Etihad Stadium on Nov 28.

The defending champions need just one point from their last two games to be sure of finishing top of Group G, which allows them the advantage of playing their last-16 second leg at home.

City won their first four group matches and have already secured a place in the knockout stages, as have Leipzig.

“It is important to finish first. We believe that when we play the last 16, having the second leg at home is not decisive but is a little bit of an advantage and we have to take it,” Guardiola said.

After winning the treble last season, successive draws against Chelsea and Liverpool have seen Arsenal knock City off the top of the Premier League, but Guardiola is happy with his players’ hunger.

“We are performing really well, we must continue that. I’m very pleased with our performances in general,” he said.

“The only game we conceded a lot of chances and goals was Chelsea. Our averages in other games are similar to last season.”

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Asked if City’s relentless appetite for success would persuade him to extend his stay at the club beyond his current contract, which expires in 2025, Guardiola said: “I have energy. Of course it’s a possibility.

“One year and a half is a long time in football. I arrived eight years ago with hair and look what happened!”

City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, who has been out since hamstring surgery in August, said over the weekend he hopes to return to action early in the new year.

“He has had a tough injury and surgery. He has to recover well,” Guardiola said of the Belgian playmaker.

“He’s said end of December, new year, so it will be a happy new year for everyone.” AFP

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