MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola never played under Marcelo Bielsa but credits the Leeds United coach as one of the most important influences on his own trophy-laden managerial career.
Experienced Argentine Bielsa will be managing in the Premier League for the first time next season, having steered Leeds back to the top flight after a 16-year absence.
And Guardiola, for one, says England’s Premier League will be all the better for it.
“He has done an exceptional job. They were exceptional last season and then didn’t get promoted. They showed a lot of character to get promoted a year later and have been consistent,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City’s trip to relegation-threatened Watford on Tuesday.
“I was not his player, so it is difficult to talk about him. But I know the reference from a hundred million players who were with him. I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk to him. He is unique in world football because of the special way he plays. He is an authentic manager.
“No other manager in the world plays the way he plays. I learnt a lot about his style, his final product. He is an incredible person. He is so special.”
Former Argentina national team coach Bielsa’s managerial honours cannot compare with Guardiola’s multiple titles with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
But for Guardiola there is more to being a great manager than picking up silverware.
The Spaniard says he rates Bielsa “at the top” and it does not matter that he has not got a glittering CV.
“Winning titles helps (you) to have a job next season but at the end of your life what you remember is not the titles you have won, it is the memories you have and whether the manager taught you a lot,” Guardiola said.
“What we remember are the experiences and the memories, the players you have had, the managers you have had. Marcelo is at the top of the list. Absolutely at the top of the list.”
Guardiola also shared his thoughts on another manager, Nigel Pearson, who was sacked by Watford on Sunday despite leading them to the cusp of safety having been hired in December on a short-term deal with the club bottom of the table.
“Before lockdown what Nigel did was incredible,” Guardiola said. “They got a lot of points with the results they got when they were on the bottom. After that, I don’t know what happened.”
Watford are three points above the drop zone with two gaames remaining and visit Arsenal on the final day after hosting City.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris