Arteta, Kompany and Xavi hung on Guardiola’s every word and are talking a great game as managers

A cramped book shop basement near Euston. Pep Guardiola shuffles in. Johan Cruyff’s posthumous autobiography, My Turn, lines the shelves.

Cruyff had died of lung cancer six months earlier, the book penned during his final days in 2016. Guardiola was asked by the Dutchman’s family to speak at the launch, an invitation that was always going to be accepted.

But you can see that Guardiola is timid as he sits on a stool discussing his mentor. The fact that he has been chosen as the football community’s voice at this event is not lost on him. Because to him, and scores of others, Cruyff was the one who changed the game.

Vincent Kompany's Burnley is top of the Championship

Pep Guardiola’s proteges including Mikel Arteta and Vincent Kompany have impressed 

Arteta, Kompany and Xavi (pictured) are all top of their leagues with their respective clubs

Arteta, Kompany and Xavi (pictured) are all top of their leagues with their respective clubs 

‘I thought I knew about football but when I started to work with him, a new world appeared,’ Guardiola says at the launch. ‘It was like going to university every day. Every training session was a masterclass.’

Cruyff is his inspiration, often referenced even now. And those philosophical tentacles are spreading. Guardiola’s players talk about how he has made them view the game differently. One of his proteges, Mikel Arteta, is proving a dangerous friend in the title race and is back at Manchester City tonight in the FA Cup fourth round.

Vincent Kompany’s Burnley are top of the Championship and Xavi’s Barcelona sit three points clear in La Liga. Rafael Marquez is Barcelona B coach, where Guardiola started. Xabi Alonso has taken on a rebuilding project at Bayer Leverkusen. Javier Mascherano is Argentina Under 20 manager.

There will be more, with City players — including Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan — doing their coaching badges.

‘The influence that Pep had in the last 20 years is just incredibly powerful,’ Arteta said. ‘He changed the game like Johan did in the past, he did it like other managers have that will go down in history. We have learned a lot from him, we have been inspired and then everyone has to build his own career and his own pathway.’

Arteta and Guardiola will collide on Friday when their two sides face off in the FA Cup

Arteta and Guardiola will collide on Friday when their two sides face off in the FA Cup

Guardiola was typically bashful on Thursday. ‘The influence of me on their success? Zero, zero, zero,’ he said. ‘Vinnie influenced me as a captain, Mikel influenced me as an assistant. I don’t know what I gave to them. You’ll have to ask them.

‘If you tell me Arsenal send the full back inside with Oleksandr Zinchenko, we started doing that together here then yeah. They play in the pockets with Granit Xhaka… yeah. They play with wingers higher than the midfielders like us — yeah.

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‘But all the methodology, the process, the character, the mentality, the set pieces, a thousand million things — that belongs to them. I would like to say what they do is because I teach them but it’s b******s.’

Arteta was a player at Arsenal when he decided to take his first steps towards the dugout aged 28.

He was supported by Arsene Wenger and began his UEFA A licence in Wales. But Arteta’s education started at La Masia, the Barcelona finishing school where youngsters learn the principles of Cruyff and Rinus Michels.

Xavi hopes to emulate former boss Guardiola by winning the LaLiga title with Barcelona

Xavi hopes to emulate former boss Guardiola by winning the LaLiga title with Barcelona

It was there, as a 15-year-old academy player, where he met Guardiola. Arteta began to shadow him. ‘I just wanted to achieve what he was doing,’ he said.

At that point, Guardiola occupied the role in Barca’s midfield that Arteta hoped would be his own one day.

‘I loved the way he played and the way he was transmitting on the pitch and understanding what was happening,’ Arteta said. Years earlier, Cruyff had to persuade Barcelona not to sell Guardiola as a youngster, but the Arsenal boss was not so lucky and never reached their first team.

If there was one man always destined to be Guardiola’s star pupil and successor it was Xavi, the extension of his coach on the pitch over three seasons.

Kompany's Burnley currently look like they will play Guardiola's Man City next season

Kompany’s Burnley currently look like they will play Guardiola’s Man City next season

‘It was like doing a Masters degree in coaching,’ Xavi said. ‘I learned so much: the way he is, the ambition, the desire and the passion that he puts into everything — he is obsessed about football and tactics.’

Guardiola had warned before Xavi got the Barca job: ‘He has to be himself, he doesn’t need to be the successor of anyone.’

And so it has proved. There are common traits but there are also differences. Xavi’s obsession has been about pace not possession.

He has often preferred to play with two high, open wingers rather than packing midfield. And he demands midfielders run beyond the forwards on to balls played over the top. It isn’t the ‘pass teams to death’ edict that Barca played under Guardiola.

‘They get you on the carousel and they make you dizzy,’ Sir Alex Ferguson said of Guardiola’s Barcelona. With Xavi’s side it is the quick counter-attacks that are a greater threat.

In part, it is Xavi being pragmatic. Diario AS Barcelona correspondent Juan Jimenez said: ‘He shares the same football tastes and he works as hard as Pep but he needs to win to put credit in the bank for next season.’

The consensus is that Xavi will not end up having the same tactical brilliance as his mentor but that over time more and more of the ‘Guardiolaisms’ will emerge.

The likes of Xabi Alonso (R) and Javier Mascherano have also gone into management

The likes of Xabi Alonso (R) and Javier Mascherano have also gone into management 

Guardiola has long kept tabs on Arteta. When Arteta was 30, Guardiola called him, saying he might be heading to the Premier League. He wondered if Arteta would be his assistant.

Guardiola’s proteges 

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) Top of Premier League

What he said about Guardiola: ‘The influence Pep had in the last 20 years is just incredibly powerful.’

Played (this season) – 19

Won – 16

Win Percentage – 84.2%

Points per game – 2.63

Xavi (Barcelona) Top of LaLiga

What he said about Guardiola: ‘It was like doing a Masters degree in coaching. I learned so much.’

Played – 17

Won – 14

Win percentage 82.4%

Points per game- 2.59

Vincent Kompany (Burnley) Top of the Championship

What he said about Guardiola: ‘Pep was very important in me looking at the game in a different way.’

Played – 28

Won – 18

Win percentage – 64.3%

Points per game- 2.21

That gave Arteta yet more motivation. While he was still playing, and Guardiola was at Barca and Bayern Munich, he would ask for Arteta’s thoughts on English teams. When he joined City, he prised him away from a possible role in Arsenal’s academy.

At City, Arteta’s function was initially simple — overhauling existing departments and helping everyone new to the club to understand the culture of English football — the referees, the media. Before long, Arteta was preparing game plans, making decisions during games and future-proofing — planning how City would evolve. His office was often occupied with players studying clips.

Kompany, the club captain at the time, took notes of all this before joining Anderlecht in 2019, six months before Arteta left.

‘Pep was very important in me looking at the game in a different way, like he has been for many players and many other coaches,’ Kompany said. ‘Looking at spaces and then you make your own game out of it, so you become your own version. He has definitely been someone who triggered me wanting to become a manager and he meant so much to my career as a football player.’

Kompany is his own man. He does not like discussing City publicly and wants to create his own story. But he has borrowed and adapted from Guardiola, who introduced him to a new style that saw Kompany elevate his game and City dominate domestically.

Watching Burnley is like watching City, the basis is the same. Guardiola said: ‘Cruyff talked about the “butterfly effect” — that a good pass in the beginning can create a wonderful thing at the end.’

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‘He is exactly like Pep,’ one source says of Kompany. ‘Very intense.’ Another adds: ‘Training is the same, Pep-esque in how he explains to the players how what they are doing today will fit for the opposition at the weekend.’

Kompany has taken the five-man leadership group concept that Guardiola employs — a lobby of players he conducts meetings with to discuss harmony. Burnley talk of how he is developing staff as well as the squad.

Sources credit Kompany with signing players he previously knew, with some from Belgium, so the transition for the club is easier. Arteta is similar with the influence of Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus.

Throughout, Arteta has faced the same resurfacing accusation: he is Pep-lite. ‘I had this when I was a player as well. Because we grew up in the same position. I cannot control it,’ he said.

Arteta and Arsenal are looking to prise the Premier League title away from Guardiola's City

Arteta and Arsenal are looking to prise the Premier League title away from Guardiola’s City

Guardiola’s shadow lingers over him even now, three years into his reign. Partly due to similarities: the touchline histrionics, the inverted full backs, the ball- playing goalkeepers, a willingness to exile those who do not fit in.

But Arteta insisted: ‘We are really different as people and we are very different as managers. That is why we understand each other so well.

‘I have never tried to copy and paste anything. This club deserves much better than that, and it would not work that way. Every character and person dictates how the manager is, and how the team is. And we are very different.’

So how does he cope with those comparisons now? ‘Very simple: I feel gratitude,’ Arteta said. ‘First of all because he inspired me as a player and gave me the opportunity as a coach. That’s it. What people think of me, I accept it.

‘Because I probably wouldn’t have had the career I had as a player, the understanding of the game or the purpose I had as a player if he hadn’t been in that time at Barcelona. And I wouldn’t be sitting here and having that willingness and love for coaching if he hadn’t trusted in my love and given me the opportunity.’

He always hoped they would be going head-to-head for trophies one day. And here they are.

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