I never shared a dressing room with Pep Guardiola, but we have mutual friends and they have told me they always believed he would be a coach. The players I have coached who have worked with him also spoke wonders of his enthusiasm and his impressive knowledge – especially given his young age.
Both Guardiola and I played as central midfielders. It is a privileged position on the pitch because it allows you to see what is needed by both the defence and the attack. It gives you the opportunity to understand the needs of your team-mates and to interpret their positions. From the position of central midfield, you understand what is happening throughout the entire team.
The tie between Barcelona and Bayern Munich is a special one for Guardiola. It is different because he is going back to the club where he grew as a player, where he coached and where he wrote so many special stories.
Pep knows the Barcelona players and that can help him as he prepares for the tie. It gives him something of an advantage.
Part of his pre-match planning will focus on Lionel Messi. Guardiola will tell his squad about the qualities, the strengths and the movements of Lionel in the build-up, but once the match gets underway and the ball starts rolling, Messi is a special footballer who is capable of producing something new – however much you explain and tell your players about him.
Barcelona’s forward line is extremely competitive. Each of the three players clearly understands their role in the team. Neymar is an individual with a lot of skill and he scores goals; Luis Suarez is a powerful centre-forward who plays in the area, with his back to goal, making runs; and Messi is the best player in the world.
We are talking, quite possibly, about three of the four or five best players in the world – and Barcelona have them all in their attack. It is very special to watch and it is no surprise to see how well they are doing.
Luis Enrique is also doing a good job. Barcelona are perhaps stronger defensively than they were last season, working better both at the back and going forward, with a more effective midfield. Since December, the team has grown a lot.
This tie itself is evenly balanced. Bayern have important players missing through injury, but that can be no excuse. I believe Bayern – being such an important and prestigious club – have the obligation and the responsibility to put out a competitive side in which the players replacing the injured footballers will no doubt be of great quality as well.
Two Spanish finalists in the Champions League this season would just serve to highlight how difficult it is to win La Liga and it would put Atletico Madrid in an even more important position.
Not just because of what we achieved last year by winning La Liga, but also what we have achieved this year, having been knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Barcelona with a man down from the first half and then our exit in the Champions League with 10 men in the final minutes.
If Real Madrid and Barcelona both reach the final, it would give even more value to what we have achieved at Atletico Madrid.