Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

To Perfect Pep Is a Class Apart, Says Koeman ; CITY SPECIAL

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

To Perfect Pep Is a Class Apart, Says Koeman ; CITY SPECIAL

Article excerpt

WHEN City bring in Pep Guardiola as their manager, they will not just be getting a man rated by many as the best coach on the planet.

They will also be landing a man with an insatiable thirst for football knowledge, and a man who cares little for the trappings of the game.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman was Guardiola's roommate in their Barcelona days, and was charged by then boss Johan Cruyff to look after and school the skinny teenager who had just stepped up from the youth ranks.

Koeman was an experienced 27-year-old Holland international when Guardiola joined the first team ranks at the Nou Camp, a man who had won league titles with Ajax and PSV Eindhoven, the European Championships with his country and who, in his first season in Catalonia, had lifted the Copa del Rey. Cruyff had ripped up the old Barca rules which discarded players who lacked height or a strong physique, and pinned great hopes on Guardiola.

And he asked Koeman to mentor him in those early days.

"When Cruyff brought Pep into the squad, he said to me, 'You are going to look after this boy. You are going to be his tutor, help him develop and make sure he learns the Dutch style of play. From now on he's going to be your room mate'" Koeman has since revealed.

It worked. Guardiola soon established himself as the midfield anchor to Cruyff 's Barcelona Dream Team which won four successive league titles and the European Cup.

Koeman said: "Pep was a fantastic guy. He was eager to learn and he wanted to know everything. From the very beginning he was asking me everything about the Ajax youth academy.

"He would say: 'Ronald, how do they train? What do they do? How do they play?' "He wanted to know about the Dutch school of football. More than any other player he wanted to know about one- touch football, about positional play.

"He had an insatiable hunger for information and a massive interest in the game. We spent hours talking football.

"There were months when I spent more time with Pep than with my own wife! …

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