At the end of the 2007-08 season, then Barcelona president Joan Laporta announced that Barcelona B Team coach and former blaugrana player Josep Guardiola would take over as the first team coach replacing Frank Rijkaard.
After a season in which Barcelona ended third in La Liga, finishing 18 points behind winners Real Madrid, the team needed to be shaken up to start a new era after Rijkaard’s exit and president Laporta thought Guardiola was the person to lead that change.
Guardiola’s first talk to the players occurred in the preseason held by the team in St. Andrews, Scotland. Although a little nervous, Pep knew this speech was very important to generate trust in the players so they would believe in his project and at the same time, he wanted to let them know about his high expectations for commitment, determination and love for the club.
Journalist Guillem Balagué who is Guardiola’s biographer, has published in British daily The Telegraph a fragment of his book Guardiola: Another way of winning that includes the coach’s first words to the squad and all team members including medical staff, press personnel and assistants.
The following is the speech that started perhaps the most successful era in European club’s history:
“Gentlemen, good morning. You can imagine what a huge motivation it is for me to be here, to coach this team. It is the ultimate honour. Above all, I love the club. I would never make a decision that would harm or go against the club. Everything I am going to do is based on my love for FC Barcelona. We need and want order and discipline.
“The team has been through a time when not everybody was as professional as they should have been. It is time for everybody to run and to give their all.
“I’ve been part of this club for many years and I am aware of the mistakes that have been made in the past, I will defend you to the death but I can also say that I will be very demanding of you all: just like I will be with myself.
“I only ask this of you. I won’t tell you off if you misplace a pass, or miss a header that costs us a goal, as long as I know you are giving 100 per cent. I could forgive you any mistake, but I won’t forgive you if you don’t give your heart and soul to Barcelona.
“I’m not asking results of you, just performance. I won’t accept people speculating about performance, if it’s half-hearted or people aren’t giving their all.
“This is Barça, gentlemen, this is what is asked of us and this is what I will ask of you. You have to give your all. A player on his own is no one, he needs his team-mates and colleagues around him: every one of us in this room, the people around you now.
“Many of you don’t know me, so we will use the next few days to form the group, a family even. If anyone has any problems, I’m always available, not just in sporting matters but professional, family, environmental.
"We’re here to help each other and make sure there is spiritual peace so that the players don’t feel tension or division. We are one. We are not little groups because in all teams this is what ends up killing team spirit.
“The players in this room are very good, if we can’t get them to win anything, it will be our fault. Let’s stick together when times are hard. Make sure that nothing gets leaked to the press. I don’t want anybody to fight a battle on his own.
"Let’s be united, have faith in me. As a former player, I have been in your shoes, I know what you are going through, what you are feeling.
“The style comes dictated by the history of this club and we will be faithful to it. When we have the ball, we can’t lose it. When that happens, run and get it back. That is it, basically.”
14 titles in 4 years prove Laporta was not wrong when he appointed Guardiola.