Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola sat with Guillem Balague for an interview on BBC Radio 5 live.
The Boss talks about everything – from his early days to his time at Manchester City and Yes, even about some Music.
Below is the full transcript of the interview:
Guillem Balague: You do listen to music a lot, it is part of your day-to-day life. Do you listen to it in the car, at home, when?
Pep Guardiola: When I’m at home always the music is there. I love the radio, I’m a big fan. In Barcelona when I went to work I always listened to politicians’ programmes in the mornings. I love it. The radio brings you to another place. You can imagine the faces, the voices.
I love it. One day I would like to work in radio.
Do you want a radio show? Like a talk show so you interview people or would you be a DJ?
No, not at all. I like music but I don’t understand it really. To be involved, maybe once a week to talk there.
There’s something magic about music isn’t there? In three minutes, four minutes it just takes you to a completely different planet. Do you enjoy what music does to you?
Yes, of course. Some music just for the lyrics, sometime for the music. Sometimes you remember an amazing part of your life, periods of your life. Music is part of the culture.
How many things have changed in the world through music? It’s part of our lives. My kids, my daughters and son they laugh because they listen to music I could not listen to.
They understand completely the lyrics, I don’t even understand any of the words – the rap, it’s incredible.
Song 1: Fiesta, by Joan Manuel Serrat (1970)
Does this song take you back home?
Serrat is one of the best singers in Catalunya in Spain. He’s one of my idols. He sang in Spanish and in Catalan. This song is more of the music – lyrics helped the party, it doesn’t matter if you’re the richer one or the poorer one, the party’s the party.
This song always bring me happiness. I like it a lot.
As well as taking you back home does it also take you to a simpler time, your youth perhaps, was everything was black and white, clearer?
The Sant Joan party that the song talks about is a typical party in Catalunya, celebrated on 23 June with fire on the beach or in the street, everybody dancing, having fun.
I was not a guy who went to a lot of parties. At 13-years-old I was going to Barcelona’s academy. I always tried to be focused and I never went to discos or to pubs to drink a lot. But in the summer, when school was finished, everyone would go to the Sant Joan party and it’s a song that reminds me a lot of my little, little town of Santpedor when I was young.
Do you remember knocking on the doors of people asking for chairs and stuff to burn?
Yes, of course. I was born in a little town and this kind of thing happened. Right now at Manchester City on our staff we have a doctor, Eduardo Mauri. You cannot imagine – he can sing Joan Manuel Serrat better than Joan Manuel Serrat himself. It’s true. I’m not joking.
Sometimes when we make parties or we go all the staff together, the English guys put their songs on and always he sings Joan Manuel Serrat, especially he sings that song incredibly.
When you look back at that kid – the 12, 13, 14-year-old kid – what do you see? How much of him is left in you?
I think it’s impossible to have lived a better childhood, to have been a happier little boy than I was. We were not a wealthy family. We were normal people, more poor than rich, in a little town, and every day I was in the streets with no traffic lights, no cars in the street, always playing, bicycles, football, basketball, tennis, pool.
I remember absolutely that. I would wake up, go out to the street, then school, then back out on the street until mum said: ‘OK it’s time to have dinner and come back home’.
I think kids right now miss that situation. Times have changed so much, and I am not complaining, but I think kids miss that a little bit now, especially if you live in big cities.
I have lived in Barcelona, New York, Munich, now here in Manchester, they are big cities and life is more difficult. But to grow up in a little, little town you had that. I was so happy in that period in my life.
What did you mum shout? Pep? Pippette?
Where is that Guiseppe? Is he still in you?
Yes, of course. I grew up so I am not the same as I was when a kid. That’s normal; I am not the same as last year. But the basics are the same.
The education you receive from parents, school, your friends, it’s always a main thing you will carry for the rest of your life, but we change.
I was a boy and now I am a father; maybe in a few years I will be a grandfather. It’s part of the process.
Your dad is a bricklayer. Is he living now in the house he built?
Yes, we try to convince him to move on, maybe to an apartment in the city, but there’s no way.
I understand completely. He built that house and it’s too big for just mum and dad. But I understand, it’s their house, their life. It’s nice.
I’ve heard you say they’re not football-orientated people, so your love for football came naturally through playing in the streets .
Yes. It’s the best way to improve. In America when they play basketball, they don’t play on the big court, it’s all on the street.
It’s where you learn, absolutely. The future players will come back from the places where you can play and they play hard.
The more golf shots you do, a better golfer you will be. With football it’s the same.
Do you enjoy spending time with creatives, with musicians? I know you’re friends with poets. What do you get out of it?
Yes, always you believe the people who are good in their business, in their creativity, you can learn from them.
You can take something and learn for your personal life, your professional life. I was football playing and managing and I was here and I was there and sometimes you meet these people.
But also I meet extraordinary people and they are friends of mine, I learn a lot.
Say for instance the conversations you used to have with Johan Cruyff and Ferran Adria (chef and proprietor at the three Michelin star restaurant El Bulli in Catalonia) when you went to the El Bulli at the beginning of the summer and you meet there and talk and eat and drink and end up in the sea?
You gave there two incredible examples. Both have a real genius so they change. They are people who we are in the desert and they will build something and millions of people will follow.
The best cooks in the world were in the Ferran Adria kitchen. If you don’t try to be creative and ask why do we have to do that then humanity doesn’t exist in the way we know right now.
These kind of people are necessary to make humanity better.
And in football you could say the same thing. Why do things in the same way they’ve always been done? I’ve heard you say sometimes you are on the touchline and things are not going well and you think what would Cruyff or Ferran do here? You’re actually telling yourself how can we do this completely different.
It’s not to do it differently just to be different. All managers take a lot of decision for feelings. You have to take in a lot of information, and put it in your brain. That is the first part. But the second part is you have to live for your feelings.
Why do you play this guy or this guy? The players understand that. Sometimes it’s for the locker room, sometimes it’s because I am a human being and I want to help him and it’s not about the quality or the other one’s playing bad, no, it’s because in that day I wake up and I want to let him play.
Sometimes it’s for that reason and sometimes the media and even your mates or the staff or the players don’t understand that. But that is what it is.
But you imagine that it is going to help for the next month, for the next period. I want to improve him, I want to make competition for the other one. It’s for many, many reasons. Sometimes the decision are so normal, you just let your instinct flow.
Song 2: Your Song, by Elton John (1970)
One of my dreams before leaving this country is to have a concert from Elton John, especially this song. I first heard it was when I was 18 or 19 and started to play in Barcelona, I remember a lot of songs from that period in my life.
But I’m pretty sure Elton John is not going to listen to this chat…
We’ll make sure that he does. You haven’t been to a concert of his?
I met him when we played Watford at the end of last season and it was a huge pleasure. If he has organised a concert here, please, I will be there.
‘My gift is my song and this one’s for you’. Do we all have a gift?
Of course we all have a gift to give. I think I am good in football because my work is my passion. When I say I love this game, I love this game. When you put your passion in front of you always it works.
Always I try to say look for your talent. Maybe you don’t know what it is but try to look for it. Even if you want to work in the most stupid thing, just do it. Because after that when that happens you do your best. I say the same things to my kids: try to discover what you love most and then it won’t feel like effort, it will be pleasure.
Life is sometimes short, sometimes long, but if you wake up every morning knowing you are going to do something you like, that is enough – that is the pay-off.
Is there a second thing you like the most if football hadn’t been part of your life or something had happened that stopped you?
I think when you have been with lots of managers all them explain to you it’s so obsessive, it’s demanding it’s so stressful, so have another option, it’s so complicated.
I love reading books for example. When I was young I read a lot, but since I became a manger I read one or two a year. Now with the international break I have more time and in the summer time, but during the day I cannot because I am thinking I am wasting my time you know?
I could see more games, I could prepare the training a bit better or analyse the opposition better.
But when I try to relax the most is when I play golf. People don’t look at me, I can walk because the people in front are 150 yards away, the people behind me are 150 yards away. You can play with your father, your son, your grandfather, your wife. Even you can play with Tommy Fleetwood. That’s why it’s the only way I can break the routine.
The way I see you play golf is not very relaxing because you want to win.
It’s no sense if you play golf only to play. Always you have to do it to win and do it better, knowing if you lose t’s part of the game.
Someone with a gift, a huge gift – and we’ve discussed him a little bit already – was Johan Cruyff. The gift of thinking differently, the gift of doing things in a new way, the gift of communicating that passion to you. You’ve said you fell in love with what he gave you. He gave you that gift, you fell in love with football.
He helped me to love this game, to love football, and to love it you have to understand it.
He gave us secrets, because the way he sees football is so different. It was so, so atttractive. It was so powerful in that way.
He said something and it was unique. But when he told us it was a ‘Wow, it’s so simple’. He was perfect when you are so young – seven, eight, nine 10.
The basics, the principles. Sometimes when I hear Michael Jordan say the people play for his physicality but he has to learn the fundamentals, learn the reasons why.
And with Cruyff it was like that. It’s not you have success that’s enough, it’s why did you have success? Why did you play that ball in the right channel for the attacking midfielder. Tell me why? This passion, he put it in my blood.
The relationship didn’t start very well because he reckoned, with stats in his hand, that his grandmother ran faster than you.
He was like a spiritual father. He was so rough – so tough, you cannot imagine. It was not easy for a long period, it was so demanding.
I remember Michael Laudrup at Barcelona saying I am going because I can’t stay any more with him. But years later Michael Laudrup said he was the best. That happens with a genius.
I see many things of Cruyff in you but one is that if plan A didn’t work, he went to perfect that plan, he wouldn’t go to plan B. He was so determined that his ideas were the right ones. How many times have you heard why don’t you go to plan B?
He was a believer that when it doesn’t go well you have to perfect your idea. For example our strikers are not big, so plan B would be to put a big guy on for the long ball, but we don’t have it.
I’m not going to buy a player to have on the bench for 11 months to play for 10 minutes when the game is not going well.
But of course there is a plan B if the game if not going well, for example we’re going to go man-to-man or defend deep.
Sometimes you have to defend for the last 10 minutes in your own box, but in principle we don’t do that. It is so difficult to create a good team, a good idea, so to create two or three ideas – I don’t have time.
Do you still talk to him? To Johan?
I am not such a religious guy – I grew up going to church but I don’t believe too much.
So I don’t talk to him, but I always remember. I would have loved for him to be able to watch us in England. He would have loved it, with the cheek that was always there with Barcelona, he could watch us in England playing the way he loved.
Maybe I would like to have faith to believe he is there watching us. Sometimes I think maybe it’s happened.
Did you ever talk to him to say do you think this will work in England?
Yes, when I left Barcelona I called him to say I have an offer to go to England or Bayern Munich. I decided to go to Germany because when Bayern Munich call you have to go. It’s an incredible club.
Incredible people I met there. He was so good but he knew that to have good players is a big advantage. If you have good players you can play anywhere.
Song 3: New York, New York, sung by Frank Sinatra (1980)
You lived in New York. Take us for a little walk in your New York.
After Barcelona I went to New York for my family. My wife is behind me and she deserved it to take a year just for her. She enjoyed it a lot.
Watching my wife there was the pay-off. What can I say about New York that Frank Sinatra hasn’t already explained better than anyone else.
Anything you need, anything you want, you have it there.
My kids learned English there. When we arrived they didn’t have a single word and after five, six months they spoke fluently, perfect.
The charisma of that city, everyone who has been there wants to go back, it is a very special place.
You needed to go away and that is the perfect city, because you can be very visible and hide at the same time.
I thought it would be a nice place to spend one year away from football. Of course you are always connected, but living there and not in Europe, it is completely different. It was a good moment.
I arrived and stayed the first month and then signed a contract to go to Bayern Munich. I started to study German. It is so complicated to learn. Three or four hours a day in the morning with the grammar, after two months I thought: I’m going to call and break the contract.
It is so complicated even for German kids to learn. Can you imagine for a 41-year-old man? But I am stubborn.
I spoke to my teacher and said focus on football words, concepts and ideas. I arrived in Germany with the basics and after living there I could more or less peak fluently in German.
Tell me if this story is true. You were going to meet (Bayern Munich president) Uli Hoeness and Uli met by accident Sir Alex Ferguson and Ferguson said ‘What are you doing here?’ and Hoeness said ‘Well you know I’ve got a company that sells sausages and I’ve got a meeting about sausages’.
That’s true. Uli has a big, big sausage compnay. They are really good and they met each other.
Your dinner with Sir Alex must have been amazing as well. Sitting down with Sir Alex Ferguson must have been like a dream?
When I was a Barcelona player, 19-20-years-old, sometimes at Christmas I came here and go to buy books in London. I bought one biography of Sir Alex.
I fought to be his player at the end of my career but it was not possible and after I met him as a person and he is fantastic.
That is the joy to be a football manager, to meet extraordinary people. I am happy that his recovery is going well. When I saw him at Old Trafford with all the crowd clapping, he deserves it. I’m so glad he’s coming back and it’s going well.
For the biography I wrote of you I asked him to write the foreword. He didn’t think about it twice. But one thing he insisted on was ‘Why leave Barcelona? He should have been there for 25 years’.
I understand because the way football is in England you can stay for 20 years in one place. Here during the week I don’t see the journalists. But what happened for example we had many problems in the club, in the locker room, sometimes you have to be tough with the players, but nothing got out.
A few times at Barcelona and Munich something happened and the next day it was in the media. Here you are more comfortable.
Does the stress come from performances and results and not other kinds of stress?
Yes, but the results are simple. If you don’t win you’re going to be sad, if you win you continue.
But then it’s at the end of the season when it’s stressful. It’s the way you live day by day. I don’t know how Sir Alex Ferguson thinks I could be a Barcelona for 25 years, it would not be possible. Believe me.
In England people are very logical in everything they do. But there is no logic in clapping your team when they’ve lost 5-0. Football just does this crazy thing. If you wear our shirt you are one of us.
That’s true. They help you to love where you are. I will be Mancunian for the rest of my life. I will be a Manchester City fan and it will be impossible to train another team like Manchester City in England because I feel beloved from the people here.
I like to do it better, to seduce them, to make a better club so they can believe we are strong enough to do better things.
All human beings want to be protected and supported in the bad moments.
I think it’s cultural. Here I think it’s like in the USA. You are closer to an American mentality than a Latin mentality. That’s why you move on to see the different mentalities and to make you better.
Song 4: I’ve Got You Under My Skin, sung by Frank Sinatra (1963)
The thing about Frank Sinatra is he was at the top for five decades. But for me the fascinating thing about him was there was a time in the 60s where he thought he couldn’t sing any more. He had to have an operation, his heart was broken because of Ava Gardner and he thought this is it, nobody wants me any more and he climbed out of that deep hole. It requires a different type of mentality to be able to do that doesn’t it?
When one guy spends five decades singing it’s because you are at the top.
I saw a Netflix documentary about him. he was a fighter; he had work ethic, not just the talent. Everyone knows his voice, it’s incredible, the charisma.
Always I like a lot because he took all his decisions, he only sang the songs he wanted to sing. And to be a fighter with more than 50 years on the stage you have to be so good. Chapeau.
Song 5: Don’t Look Back in Anger, Oasis 1996
I love this song, you cannot imagine how much. It is incredible. It puts me in the best of myself when I listen – it’s a masterpiece. Every time we go out we always sing this song together. I love it.
I like that, after what happened in Manchester at the Arena, now it is a song for the people, you know? Like in the video when everyone is in silence and one woman starts to sing the song and everybody sings, that is a moment, it was so touching for my family and for myself.
When did you hear about it first?
I was at home with my son, and my wife and daughters were there – they were at the arena.
She [Pep’s wife Cristina] called me but the line broke immediately. She told me “Something happened, something happened. We are running but I don’t know what happened” and the line broke.
“We tried to call her again and it didn’t work; we went to the the arena and after five or six minutes she rang again and said: “We are out, we’re coming back home.”
At the end we were lucky. Many people suffered, and we were lucky. Life is like this. We were in a better position than many unfortunate ones.
You were at the arena reopening (the ‘We Are Manchester’ concert). That must have been emotional, but at the same time from disaster in places like Manchester good things happen as well. There was a sense of community at a time when that is not usual. Did you sense that in Manchester?
When this kind of thing happens it shows the best of us. It’s the world we live in right now. All around the Mediterranean people are dying and the governments in Italy, Spain, it is not allowed for the people to rescue the people who are dying.
I don’t know what kind of society we are going to do because it’s not about the law, it’s about humanity. If there are people dying and heroes going in with open arms to rescue them, and the governments don’t let them do that, it’s because we are going really, really bad.
That is why the European community, the United States, Russia, all the big countries have to solve these problems.
In Spain there was a civil war and the people went away, maybe here to England, to Mexico, Holland, France, Germany, because of war. It happened, and they accepted us. My grandfathers, the fathers of my grandfathers, they accepted us. They didn’t want to leave but there was a war, and it’s again happening right now.
They accepted us so why not accept them now too?
You are being respected when you walk the streets of Manchesterr. There is a big division here, a tribal divison. What kind of reaction do you get from United fans when you come across them?
Quite well (laughter) It depends if we are drunk or not. It’s OK.
I don’t walk too much, because I’m home, work, work, home. Sometimes restaurant.
But it’s nice. The rivalry is necessary. The chants and the good things and bad things people sing – that’s just normal. There is a respect, there is no use of violence. Everything is understandble.
Why not a big house outside of Manchester and instead you live in the city centre?
When I went to Roma, to Brescia, to New York always I live in the city. I don’t live alone, I live with my kids and kids, the kids go to school.
Being in the city we can go to the cinema to the restaurants, we can go to buy clothes, we can go walk, we don’t need the car. It’s much more comfortable. We like to live in the city, in the middle.
How’s the restaurant going?
First of all it’s not my resturant. I am a minimal shareholder, it’s nothing. I’m not going to retire for that, but the restaurant is really good. It’s going well. It’s typical Catalan food and we have another option for the people.
Is Manchester how you imagined it?
Yes, quite similar, but the people advised me very bad before I came. It’s better, it’s getting better all the time.
They were saying it’s raining all the time?
No, it’s not about the rain for me. It’s the absence of light. So in Munich it was cooler than it is here. I would like to see the sky with no clouds. That is what I miss the most. When it’s cold we have big coats, hats, gloves, but it’s the absence of light that is sometimes a bit tough.
Song 6: The Healing Day, by Bill Fay (2012)
I picture you at the end of a long day, feet up, headphones on, television off, everybody in bed and you listening to this. Right or wrong.
It’s right. Even working. It’s the perfect song to stay at home when you read a book, being with the kids and listening. Every man has his own escape and when I am exhausted, immediately it is home.
With music, sometimes it’s the tones, sometimes it’s the lyrics. This song will be the one that reminds me of the period of my life in Manchester. I listen a lot to this song. I like it, I like a lot Bill Fay.
Managers, leaders in general, everybody wants a bit of you. Where do you go to hide from all that?
Every manager has his own escape. Only at home I feel safe. I mean safe in terms of not being observed. I close the door and I feel safe.
I know my job from 18, 19-years-old. I have lived many years in this type of life and it’s not a problem, I understand, I play that game.
But when I escape it’s home. Home, home, home wife, kids – it’s the only place where I can do whatever I want, where I am free to do all the silly and stupid things and not be judged.
Is Cris, your wife, the anchor, the reference, the energy provider? What does she do when you come home?
She’s there, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not, but the lovely kids we have, it’s because she was there. My family know that I am there but I am not there.
My job is demanding a lot. Cristina is an incredible woman, not just an incredible mother. If we were talking about moving to New York, Munich and here, if she decides not to come I won’t come. I will not be here – I cannot be alone in this kind of job without my family.
Sometimes I’m at home but not at home. They call Pep! Pep! but they know I am in my own world.
Always with nice songs, with nice lyrics they explain something of us. We live that. I’ve learned travelling a lot in my life and living in different continents we are more similar than we believe. The fears and the things we want are the same.
I’ve heard that fear is the thing that drives you on, but is it the fear of being found out? Of losing? Of what?
It’s important to have fear in our lives. You want to protect your team your players, what you believe in. To make a step forward it’s necessary.
People who say I don’t have fear, it doesn’t matter if you lose. No.
To do something well is the power of life. Everybody has fears. If you are going to an interview you have to prepare because if you don’t you’ll fail. It’s the same.
Song 7: Amor Particular, by Lluis Llach (1984)
It is one of the best love songs I have heard in my life. Sometimes when I meet English people, I would like to translate this song. This is a real, real song.
Lluis Llach is one of my inspirations, a Catalan singer, he is a legend in Catalunya. He is like the most loved and popular guy, like Serrat, for many songs but this one especially.
I discovered it as a teenager, the first love, the second love, and it really is part of my life, definitely.
Are you jealous, do you need Cris and your family to recognise you and give you love? But also I know that you’re shy so are you able to tell them that you love them?
I’m not shy to say how I love my people. Maybe the opposite, maybe I say too many times how I love them.
In that I feel so Latin – my face or my body language always expresses perfectly what I feel in that moment, I am not escaping or hiding.
Do you feel the hugging and the kissing, the things you do to the players, does that break down barriers?
With my players, sometimes I think many times: don’t do that Pep. Even now I don’t know if I should show too much love because sometimes you suffer more if you get too close to your players.
But in football the passion is on the field, sometimes I need to hug them, I don’t need to talk to them. People forget we are human beings. People believe we are like ice, cold, a machine. That is far away from who we really are.
David Silva will be eternally grateful because of what’s happened in the last 12 months or so ( City midfielder David Silva’s son was born prematurely, at 25 weeks, in December 2017. In January, Silva said his son was ‘fighting day by day’. In May, baby Mateo was given the all-clear to go home, and in August, Silva carried his son onto the pitch before his side’s 6-1 victory over Huddersfield. ) Football is not about life or death. There are things that are bigger than football. I understand the first thing you said to him was ‘What do you need?’
Always it will be an amazing part of our life together, for all the team who saw how he suffered, what happened. Mateo fought for his life many months and to David we said if you have to stay there and come back, you can decide. We are here for everything you need.
It is going well. David is strong – I think he is more mature. I have a feeling he laughs more now, he talks more. It was nice to see this amazing, happy end in a tough situation. I think Mateo will be strong – he survived for his life, so whatever happens in his life he can handle it.
His dad is strong, much stronger than people think.
David is shy, he doesn’t talk too much, does not give many interviews, but whatever people might believe about him, the complete opposite is true. He is a real fighter. That is why Mateo will be too.
Song 8: Hotel California, by The Eagles (1976)
I always remember this song from when I was young sharing a flat in Barcelona. I had some money but not enough to live alone. There were two or tree mates living together and I remember listening to this song a thousand million times. It’s a mythic song.
Are you attracted to America, not just New York, but America as well?
I leaned that when I lived there that if you have an idea, they were help you. You don’t need papers, or a licence for that or rules for that, it’s just ‘OK, do it’.
But you have to know behind the corner, there are 10 men like you. Show me who’s the best. It’s a competitive society and only the best ones survive.
Is it a dream of yours to go back there to live?
Maybe, we will see. Now we are still more years here. I am comfortable, I’m not thinking about new experiences.
What would you like your legacy to be, as a football coach, but also in life?
Statistics and numbers are nice, but numbers are not passion. It does not give you something. It is better to say after 10 years I remember this final and how well we played, to remember the way we have done it.
Titles are important of course, and they have helped me have jobs and to keep working on my passion.
But I think all the managers we are happy with our old players, when we can laugh and hug and have a good relation. Everyone wants to be loved, it is the secret of our lives. When the people say what do you want – be loved. That is the secret.