For Mirror, Hristo Stoichkov, the legendary Bulgarian and Barcelona footballer, gave an interview in which he challenged the intelligence of his former teammate Pep Guardiola.
A former Bulgarian international and Ballon d’Or winner, Stoichkov was Guardiola’s team-mate when Johan Cruyff led Barca to their first European Cup triumph in 1992.
He reckons that the new Manchester City manager, when appointed in the summer of 2008, inherited a squad from Frank Rijkaard bound for success with or without him.
“Barcelona was already cooked,” is Stoichkov’s take on a side which would inspire Lionel Messi to win 14 trophies under Guardiola in four seasons.
Guardiola led Barcelona from 2008 through 2012 and won three league titles, two Spanish Cups, and two Champions League titles in those four years, as well as two European Super Cups and two World Club Championships. Many find him to be the founder of the popular generation in Barcelona and he is also recognized as one of the best coaches in football history.
Stoichkov takes a slightly different view.
“Everyone knows that Barcelona was already a well-groomed squad established by Frank Rijkaard. With or without Pep, those players would produce all those impressive results. He had players like Henry, Deco, Ronaldinho, Marquez, Puyol, and Valdes, it was a crazy squad. Pep’s work was simply because he knew the youth system infrastructure very well.
All Pep needed to be was to introduce to those generation players like Iniesta, Pedro, and Messi, “said Stoichkov, who wore the Barcelona jersey from 1990 to 1995 and then from 1996 to 1998.
Stoichkov, now working as a US TV pundit, has a rosier view of the young Mourinho. He remembered he was a rather smart boy. He looked at everything-from preparation and warm-ups to the ball work we did.