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Barcelona nearly sold Pep Guardiola until Johan Cruyff stepped in

May 1992:  The Barcelona team celebrate after beating Sampdoria 1-0 to win the European Cup Final between Barcelona v Sampdoria. Barcelona won 1-0. Mandato
Image: Barcelona celebrate winning the European Cup in 1992 - Guardiola is fifth from the left in the front row

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was nearly sold when he was a young player at Barcelona - until Johan Cruyff intervened.

Cruyff was the Barca boss when Guardiola broke into the first team at the Nou Camp, and in his posthumously-released autobiography, the Dutch legend - who died of lung cancer earlier this year - praised the midfielder.

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"As a player at Barcelona, they wanted to get rid of Pep because they thought he was a lanky great beanpole who couldn't defend, who had no strength and couldn't do anything in the air," he wrote.

"So he was blamed for all the things he wasn't good at, while I thought they were all things he could learn to do well.

"What all those people didn't see was that Guardiola had the fundamental qualities needed at the top level: speed of action, technique, insight. Those are phenomena that very few people exhibit, but in his case they were present in spades."  

"As well as his his footballing qualities, Guardiola has a very strong personality and in intelligent mind. You can talk to him about any subject under the sun…

A FC Barcelona's football fan pays tribute to late Dutch football star Johan Cruyff in a special condolence area set up at Camp Nou stadium
Image: A Barcelona fan pays tribute to late Dutch football star Johan Cruyff who died earlier this year

In a tribute to what his former boss did for Barcelona, Guardiola once said: "Cruyff built the cathedral. It is up to us to maintain it."

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Cruyff - who guided Barca to four consecutive La Liga titles and the European Cup in the early 1990s - admitted he was moved by Guardiola's words.

"That's not just a brilliant choice of words, but also very touching," he wrote. "Because I've simply done what I thought was best for everyone...Because this isn't just the football I love, it's the football the supporters love as well. It's football as football must be."

'My turn: the autobiography of Johan Cruyff' is published by Macmillan and is available on Thursday for £20.

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