x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The little big man with a cheeky side

Mancini will cooperate closely with Soriano and Begiristain, but knows the pair's former colleague Guardiola is unemployed and hoping to get back into football next season.

Txiki Begiristain, the former director of football at Barcelona, has joined Manchester City.
Txiki Begiristain, the former director of football at Barcelona, has joined Manchester City.

Barcelona fans loved Manchester City's new director of football Txiki Begiristain as a player, the impudent winger who was part of Johann Cruyff's Dream Team which won the Catalans' first European Cup in 1992.

He was bought because he would fit in with Cruyff's Ajax inspired attacking philosophy which has become Barca's hallmark. And he did.

"Txiki" (which means cheeky in his native Basque) may have been diminutive, but he had steely nerve and confidence in his own ability.

Few 18 year olds break into championship-wining sides, but that is what Begiristain did in 1982 at his local top-flight club Real Sociedad, then the reigning Spanish champions.

The speedy flanker moved to Barcelona six years later and also played for Deportivo La Coruna and Urawa Red Diamonds in Japan in a professional career spanning more than 500 games.

After a brief stint in television, Begiristain worked as Barca's director of football for seven years until 2010, the man responsible for player recruitment at Camp Nou and a cornerstone of their success.

Ferran Soriano, Barca's former vice-president and now City's chief executive, was an economist who appreciated Begiristain's domestic and European football knowledge, his experience, intelligence and easy going people skills.

It is fair to say Beguiristain had a positive impact on the Catalan club.

He was the man who was on hand to make sure that Lionel Messi did not leave the club by travelling to see him with a five-year contract to be signed the day he turned 18.

He is the man who said that Barca's future lay in a team being built around Messi.

And he is the man who suggested that Pep Guardiola should be appointed the Barcelona manager - after journeying first to Lisbon to see Jose Mourinho in 2008. He left that meeting convinced that Guardiola was the future of the Barca, not Mourinho.

Begiristain left Barca in 2010 when the new president Sandro Rosell took charge and brought in his own people, but Soriano remembered his man and was key to Beguiristain's appointment at City.

The Basque, 48, will work directly with Roberto Mancini, the manager, on player recruitment, with the incumbent Brian Marwood becoming director of City's Academy.

Mancini had long been frustrated with Marwood's work in the transfer market. The manager will now liaise with Soriano and Begiristain, the former charged with doubling the club's revenues, the latter with helping City become successful in Europe as well as at home.

Mancini will welcome the appointment and will cooperate closely with the Spaniards, but he will always have it at the back of his mind that the pair's former colleague Guardiola is unemployed and hoping to get back into football next season.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE