Shakespeare said that "some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them."
Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola was an exceptional player, but to be considered great, he would need to be beyond exceptional, he would need to have the kind of talent that comes only once or twice in a generation, he would need to possess the the kind of quality that you instantly recall when you are listing the best player in that particular position.
So as a player, maybe not so much but as a manager, there seems to be a growing consensus that he is indeed great. If he was to retire now his trophies alone in 4 years match up with the greatest managers many of whom have careers stretching around 20 years. His widely admired Barcelona side has many arguing that this Barcelona is the best team in history. It would seem obvious that Guardiola has achieved greatness given the 13 titles in 4 years, perhaps 14 if his side manages to beat Bilbao, however, the point that his greatness was largely thrust upon him looms large over his record.
Barcelona frame their identity as cantera versus cartera, the talent nurturers vs the talent buyers of Real Madrid. Again a closer examination of their spending habits reveal that in the 4 years of Guardiola's reign similar amounts have been spent yet Barcelona retain this perception people have of them as a non-spending groomer of talents. Barcelona spent on average in a conservative estimate of 75 Million pounds each season under Guardiola, many of whom were terrible flops. For every Alves there was a 25 Million Dmytro Chygrinsky, a 17 Million Caceres, for every Villa there is a 16 Million Hleb, 17 Million Kierreson and a 60 Million Ibrahimovic.Overall his financial freedom and the money he spent doesn't get the attention it deserves.
Moving from the spending. The players that he did inherit; Iniesta, arguably the most mobile, versatile and effective midfielders in football; Xavi, a player whose instinct and vision for a pass and intelligence in movement is greater than anyone around without question; Messi has convinced many educated football pundits of his status as the world's best ever; Alves the best attacking full back in the world. All these superstars with the supporting cast of world class players in Villa, Puyol, Abidal, etc. it is tempting to argue that the first eleven most of whom were there before he arrived were already world class.
Going back to transfer policy, many have questioned his decision making as manager. Could this season have been different if he bought well. Fabregas is a great player no doubt, but how much did they need him over a defender. Puyol is 33 and injury prone and aside from Pique they rely on Mascherano whose defensive instincts often time helps him defend well but when he has to keep his line and when he has to make judgements that an experienced defender will intuitively know he has been found wanting. Barcelona needed a world class center back. This was glaringly obvious. And their defensive frailties have been exposed by bigger teams. What aids Barcelona is their average 70% possession but if big teams can score with 30% possession and about a tenth of the chances Barcelona have then this says a lot about their defence. Prioritising Fabregas over a defender is an explicable decision by Guardiola and a proper CB would have perhaps been the final piece in this phenomenal side.
All in all, Guardiola brought discipline and instilled an admirably strong work ethic. His uniqueness is implementing a footballing vision fully, the ability to retain on average 70 percent possession requires intelligence, skill, courage, finesse and hard work. If there was ever a team that sang from the same hymn sheet it is this Barcelona side. Guardiola conducted, but he conducted an already talented group of players reaching their peak with years of practice and with limitless resources to fine-tune as he saw fit. It is hard to imagine doing what he did with any other team. Guardiola has his medals and trophies and no one can argue against that.
However, the critics will always wonder the extent of praise he deserves. If he manages to emulate even half of what he achieved in Barcelona with another team then and only then his greatness would be cemented.