Eric Abidal believes Pep Guardiola “was a little bit lucky” to win all six major trophies in his first full year at Barcelona.
Guardiola led Barca to an unprecedented sextuple of La Liga, the Copa del Rey, Champions League, Supercopa, European Super Cup and Club World Cup in 2009, but Abidal – who played under the Coach for the entirety of his reign – considered him to be slightly fortuitous, although he was an admirer of the trainer’s work.
“Every Coach has their plan and their tactical solutions,” the retired defender told FourFourTwo.
“Rijkaard did very well at Barca – he won the Champions League and La Liga. People shouldn’t forget that just because two teams have won the Treble since then.
“Guardiola was different, of course. He was younger and had just finished playing. He gave Barca a different idea of football.
“He said, ‘play the ball, pass, pass, pass, touch, touch, touch, then in the last 30 yards, make a difference’.
“Guardiola worked hard, but he was a little bit lucky to win all the trophies in his first season. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck.
“Of course I saw him get angry. It’s the same with every Coach. After his very first home game, against Racing Santander, he called a meeting in the dressing room.
“We’d already lost the first away game, at Numancia, and now we had drawn at Camp Nou.
“Guardiola said: ‘Look, guys, we worked hard in pre-season, but you have to believe in my plan if you want to win La Liga and the Champions League’.
“After that, the team played like Guardiola wanted. At first, he’d faced egos and resistance to change.
“Players wanted to play how they wanted, but after that meeting everything changed.
“We won our next league game 6-1 away at Sporting Gijon. Guardiola worked so hard.
“Every day, from eight in the morning until eight at night, he was in the training centre watching young teams.
“He was coming up with new tactics, always planning the little details. This was a big reason he was so successful.
“Never [was being a defender at Barca boring]. The defender has to be focused at Barca, not just with the opposition strikers, but when our strikers lost the ball. That happened all the time.
“You can’t fall asleep when you play as a defender at Barca; you are part of the attack and have to press all the time.
“Guardiola was always really important in the matches against Madrid. We played them in the Copa del Rey final [in 2011] in Valencia and lost to a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo in extra time.
“After the game, he said: ‘This is my mistake. I wanted to change the tactics. I was wrong. Ignore what just happened – we have to play Madrid twice in the Champions League semi-finals now.
“We will change the tactics for these two games and we will see what happens.’ He did change the tactics significantly.
“He told the defenders not to cross the halfway line because Madrid played counter-attack. Even Dani Alves didn’t look like a winger.
“We stayed deep; we held back with [Sergio] Busquets in front of us. And what happened? Bye bye Madrid! [Barcelona won 3-1 on aggregate] Guardiola thought differently.
“People say Barcelona always played the same, but he’d change little tactical things.
“Once, he said to me and Victor Valdes before a Clasico: ‘Valdes, give the ball to Abidal and we’ll attack on that side, because Ronaldo does not defend’.
“We did and it worked – we got behind them straight from the goalkeeper.”