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Monday, January 6, 2020

Book Review of "Pep's City: The Making of a Superteam" by Pol Ballús & Lu Martín

 Pep's City: The Making of a Superteam. "A great read."
Image credit:
BackPage Press Limited.

Spanish journalists, Pol Ballús and Lu Martín, provide a comprehensive insider's look into the creation of Josep "Pep" Guardiola's juggernaut at Manchester City.

My Review in Brief:

The son of a Catalan bricklayer has ascended to incredible heights in world football. This story chronicles, brick by brick, how the foundation of a superteam, Manchester City, was built during three seasons under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola. This book is an example of old-school sports journalism at its finest: Two journalists with significant insider access who reported the story and did not become a part of it. To quote the protagonist himself, 'A great read.'

--- Steve Amoia, World Football Commentaries


1. Organized Format
2. Writing Style
3. A Translation Masterclass 
4. Compelling Images
5. A Few Notable Quotes
6. About the Authors

"This book is a tribute to Manchester, to its music and its energy and to Pep Guardiola's City. The humble offering of two journalists who love football and love City. We hope you enjoy it. Thank you Pep, for this opportunity."

---  Lu Martín, co-author of Pep's City: The Making of a Superteam, quoted in the Introduction from a book published by BackPage Press Limited of Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2019 with a list price of £14.99.

1. Organized Format

There are 38 concise chapters, a section of photographs, along with a Foreword by Noel Gallagher of Oasis. The paperback version of this book contains 267 pages.

2. Writing Style

If the protagonist of a story can provide two authors with a testimonial of, 'A great read,' on a book's cover, they have already achieved something of great value. What followed inside of the cover will not disappoint the reader. This book is a collaboration between a veteran (Martín), along with a much younger journalist, (Ballús). They take you deeply inside of City during three seasons of exhaustive coverage.

A significant amount of interviews lends a match day newspaper column feel to this work. The authors personalize their coverage without injecting subjective biases or opinions. They did a reporter's job in an old-school fashion: As a fly on the wall who sees and hears everything and never gets swatted. 

The reader can easily discern the comfort level that Guardiola, his staff and players had interacting with the authors. They created a level of trust in an environment whose inner workings are usually closely shielded to outsiders. The result is a stellar presentation to complement the level of detail and intriguing stories with various members of City.

3. A Translation Masterclass

Both authors have worked in the UK for several years; however, the original version of the book was written in Spanish. The superb translation by Louise Hunter added significant value to this project. She understood the importance of localization and football-specific terminology to present this story seamlessly to an Anglophone audience. 

4. Compelling Images

Image credit: AndhikaMPPP

There is a selection of compelling photographs which enhance the reader's experience with this book. My favorites were Phil Foden's brilliant header versus Spurs and David Silva with his infant son, Mateo.

5. A Few Notable Quotes

On Guardiola's Acute Attention to Detail:

"The City dressing room is oval. Pep wanted it designed like that so that the players could interact easily. The layout means they're much less likely to huddle in small groups (as they did in the Barça dressing room)..." Page 6

On Working for Guardiola:

"He gifts you a lot of personal responsibility and always acknowledges the work we do. He's a very supportive boss and can be very affectionate. So it is his absolute right  that occasionally we'll all get a telling off. We all bear the brunt when he thinks someone messed up." --- Fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura quoted on page 36.

On City's Focus about Nutrition:

"City's football academy canteen has become, according to several players, the best restaurant in Manchester. Some of them ask for takeaway bags at the end of their working days." Page 59

On the Development of Kevin De Bruyne:

"Pep's arrival instilled more method in a player of natural ability... Now he sets the tempo of a game. He's like the orchestra conductor. The game's mapped out in his head... This wasn't his original style. Pep's given him a new way of viewing things, a new way of controlling a match." --- Mikel Arteta quoted on page 90.

On the Role of City's kit men:

"The players' boots are given special care and those which require it are steamed before training sessions and matches. The kit men are also quite happy to break-in new boots by wearing them for the player for a few days, and place no restrictions on shoe size. 'Ag
üero has enormous feet but he'll always get me to do it,' Ashton (Brandon) smiles..." Page 100

Pep on Pep:

"Football, like any sport, requires tactics, otherwise it makes no sense. I became a coach because I love the tactical side of things, but I know that eventually I'll start to focus less on systems and more on the human aspect. Now I can spend two hours watching a game and one day I'll stop that and spend those two hours talking to one of my players, or the chef, or the physio." --- Pep Guardiola quoted on page 154.

On the Law of the Barrio:

"I saw that they had got hold of one of our fans, four against one, and were practically smothering him... Back home there was a code; if there's a fight, and it's one on one, you stay out of it, but when it's one against four... That's how I grew up and it's something I still live by." --- Sergio "Kun" Agüero quoted on page 216.

On City's Wunderkind, Phil Foden:

"We didn't give Phil Foden a new contract by accident. And I'll tell you this: he is the only player that cannot be sold, under any circumstances. The only one. Not for £500m. Phil's going nowhere. Phil is City." --- Pep Guardiola quoted on page 249.

Please Note

I have received a complimentary review copy from a representative of the publisher, BackPage Press Limited of Glasgow, Scotland. I was not financially compensated by the co-authors, publisher, translator or any party who would benefit from a positive review.

6. About the Authors

Lu Martín is a legendary Spanish journalist who has written on La Liga and the national team since the 1980s. He worked with Pep Guardiola on the 2001 book La Meva Gent, El Meu Futbol (My People, My Football). He has lived in Manchester and Barcelona during Guardiola's time in England.

Pol Ballús is a young Spanish sportswriter who moved to Manchester shortly before Pep Guardiola landed in the Premier League, with a brief to cover the growing number of Spanish players in England. He has since developed close ties with the players and staff at City.

Biographical text courtesy of BackPage Press Limited.

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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He has been the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. He has also contributed at AC Cugini Scuola Calcio, Beyond The Pitch, Football Media, Italian Soccer Serie A.com, Keeper Skool, and Soccerlens (Sportslens), respectively.

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