“Tito understands the philosophy perfectly. The project will continue” And with those simple words from Carles Puyol, the club captain, the transfer of power within one of the most famous and successful football clubs was complete. No fuss, no drama and not much discussion afterwards, either.
Not for the first time Barcelona gave everybody a lesson; not in football this time but in how to effect a smooth transition. There was no compensation package required to buy the new man out of a contract; no delay to allow for a build-up of hysteria and pub talk; no chance for the agents, their chops slavering in anticipation, to set in motion the wheels of footballing capitalism, nor for the head-hunters to charge a whacking fee for what often amounts to either a statement of the bleedin’ obvious, or a hopeless stab in the dark.
Instead, the club replaced Pep Guardiola with his number two, Tito Vilanova, a move that had more in common with how giant corporations aim to handle their successions than football clubs. Barcelona’s director of football, Andoni Zubizarreta, put some flesh on Puyol’s bone the following day: “Tito represents the philosophy of the club. We’ve always said that if the team needs players we will look at home. Who do we have at home? We have Tito.” A homespun manager, then, to reflect a homespun philosophy; one reinforced over such a long period of time that it now represents the closest thing to evolutionary perfection. Why risk damaging that?