Former Barcelona right-back Dani Alves describes Pep Guardiola as ‘a genius who won us matches’ and reveals ‘I did all I could to serve Lionel Messi’.
Alves won 14 trophies at Barca under Guardiola between 2008 and 2012, while he remains the player who has assisted Messi more times than anyone else.
“I remember the first chat we had,” the Paris Saint-Germain veteran told Sky Sports.
“From the first moment, he made it very, very, very, very, very clear what he wanted and why had had taken the job.
“He had a tremendous desire to do something different as a manager of that club.
“Obviously it was going to be a challenge, but I remember he said, ‘I can only do it if you follow me.’ It didn’t turn out too badly for him, eh?
“Guardiola improved me a lot as a footballer, he taught me a lot of things and that’s why in every interview I’m asked I always say the same thing: He is the best manager that I have worked with.
“He is a genius at key moments. He knows how to let his players know exactly what they should be doing. On many occasions, he was a manager who won us matches. We just had to follow his instructions.
“I had a pretty good teammate there. A good teammate who still looks promising… [referring to Messi].
“I did all I could to serve him, to make sure he was happy and to make sure he had the ball all the time, which is what he loves most.
“It’s like a child when you give him his first present. You give him a football and he plays with it all day. I was in charge of making sure the ball was always at his feet.
“It was very strange because from the time I arrived at Barcelona, from the first day, we had this very, very, very, very weird connection – I mean that in a positive way.
“I remember the first game we played together as if it was today. We were doing one-twos all the time, we understood each other with no more than a little look. We knew exactly where the other one was.
“I started to think, ‘Wow, I don’t know if we’re going to win something but at the very least we are going to enjoy ourselves’.
“That was how I understood football. Football is a sport to go and enjoy, to go and have a good time with your friends.
“I felt as if I was playing in the street in front of my house in Brazil in a pair of flip flops. It was surprising for me because I came from Sevilla, from a totally different style of football to Barcelona.
“I felt as if I was playing in the street in front of my house in Brazil in a pair of flip flops.”
“In that moment, that connection with Leo, it was like setting off fireworks. I said to myself, ‘Wow, I’m going to play here for a club which defends what the word football really means’.”
“It was all done to go to Manchester City but it didn’t happen because of a family decision.
“Pep knew my intentions. I spoke with him, he knew my intention to work with him and his staff again.
“He knows the gigantic respect I have for them, which is why I wanted to work with him again until something else came up.
“In life you have to weigh everything up, even when they are just decisions about your career.
“I like my decisions to be taken carefully, so they don’t harm anyone close to me, so that the people close to me are happy.
“I know that if the people close to me are happy, I am happy, and I can do my job better.
“For me, it was a shame not to work with Guardiola again because he knows I adore him, but at the same time it was a new challenge which is what changed my mind.
“We didn’t think much about Mourinho. We thought about how we were going to do things, how we were going to execute what Pep wanted, how we were going to play against the top rivals we faced along the way, and what we were going to do to overcome them.
“That was one of the most unusual things about Barcelona. Barcelona focus a lot on what Barcelona does, and not on what others are going to do.
“It creates a different way of working. Of course we studied our opponents to see their weak points and their strong points, but 70 percent of the time it was about us.
“I think it worked to perfection. When you focus on what you are going to do, it’s difficult for you to fail because it’s a lot of execution, a lot of training, a lot of practising, practising, practising.
“So when it comes to the games, it is just about replicating what you have done through the week or the month. It makes things very, very easy.”