2. Pep Guardiola
Position: Defensive Midfield
Josep Guardiola joined Barcelona’s famed youth academy La Masia at the age of thirteen. On his first day at the club, newly appointed Barcelona manager Johan Cruyff visited the academy and spotted Guardiola deployed on the right wing of the field. Cruyff ordered his Barcelona staff to field the teenage Pep as a pivot at the centre. This minor tweak was the beginning of one of the finest footballing legacies in modern football.
Guardiola is credited with revolutionizing the role of the defensive screen and correctly so. In his 11 years playing professional football with Barcelona, Pep formed the pivot of the club’s ‘Dream Team’ of the era that won several accolades, including four consecutive La Liga titles. In an era when natural ball-playing ability was being sacrificed for strength and speed, the tactically astute man from Catalonia dictated play from deep and is said to be the inspiration for several of Barcelona’s excellent midfielders in the 21st century.
Guardiola exuded poise and outstanding defensive positioning that laid the groundwork of the likes of Stoichkov, Figo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldo in different eras and went on to win six La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey titles, four Supercope de Espana titles, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup twice to amass 16 titles for the club, and one Olympic Gold Medal for Spain in 1992.