Pep Guardiola has said that fear of failure has been the driving force behind his spectacular success at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City as he prepares for the new campaign.
The 47-year-old Catalan will start the new Premier League season aiming to become the first manager since Alex Ferguson in 2009 to retain the biggest prize in English club football.
The record books are on Guardiola’s side, with the City manager having won three consecutive titles at each of his previous clubs, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
But in an intriguing insight into what drives him on, Guardiola, whose team were to face FA Cup winners Chelsea in the Community Shield on Sunday, has explained how it is the fear of losing – rather than the joy of winning – that motivates him.
“I am ready, I am ready,” said Guardiola of City’s title defence. “From my point of view, the players don’t have to be worried. I am ready to fight again.
“The fear to lose the games makes me starving and hungry again. I don’t like the feeling to lose games. It is not good for any manager around the world so all the managers try to avoid that feeling when you lose a game.
“You feel guilty, you feel bad, your private life is not good, your relationship with the players is not good so that is why to avoid that, just with that simple fear to lose a game . . . it makes you hungry.”
Guardiola has not always looked so at ease, and been so forthright and honest, before the English media – a fact that makes the forthcoming fly-on-the-wall Amazon documentary chronicling City’s spectacular title-winning season eagerly anticipated.
In one excerpt, already leaked on the internet, Guardiola is seen berating his players, telling them: “Sometimes you play better when you hate me.”
It was a management technique that Guardiola was happy to expand upon as he spoke before City’s match against Chelsea at Wembley.
“Sometimes you say some things in the heat of the dressing room,” he said. “Sometimes when you are sat here cold, you can analyse it in a different way.
“Some players need to be hugged and be close to them for their best performance. Sometimes when you don’t speak to them is when they play better. Every person is completely different.
“Others play better when they are angry with their manager or decisions or because you shout at them. The important thing is that they play better, not their relations with the manager.”
Guardiola certainly appears to have struck up strong working relationships with a number of key players, among them England forward Raheem Sterling, who found himself the centre of fevered debate over the summer for his displays at the World Cup.
Sterling has declined a new contract offer from City, meaning he enters the new campaign with only two years left on his existing deal. In addition, City have spent a club record £60 million ($78 million) on Riyad Mahrez from Leicester, a player who could be a natural long-term replacement for Sterling.
Guardiola, however, insists the contract impasse will not influence his team selection.
“No, it won’t,” said Guardiola. “There is no doubt we want him. He knows that, his agent knows that.
“We made it clear from the day I arrived we want him, but deals are deals, agents are agents and players are players. So at the end I don’t know what is going to happen but I assure you 100 percent that the manager, sporting director and all the players want him at the club.”
Guardiola will also pay special attention to German winger Leroy Sane, controversially left out of his country’s World Cup squad for Russia, over the coming weeks although the City boss does not expect him to suffer any ill effects from that disappointment.
“I think always a player’s dream is to play the World Cup because it is the most fascinating tournament every four years, the most fascinating, beautiful and exciting tournament in the world,” he said.
“It is disappointing, but it was two months ago and life is like this. Life is not easy . . . sometimes bad moments, it is how you react in those moments that will make you stronger. If he is able to overcome that situation, he will be a better player.”