Football Features

A masterstroke from Pep’s playbook or a huge regret? Every first-team striker discarded by Guardiola

By Squawka News

Published: 18:00, 20 May 2020 | Updated: 10:03, 30 March 2021

Like all great managers, Pep Guardiola is renowned for having a ruthless side when it comes to selling players.

Whether a player in question doesn’t fit in with his notoriously demanding tactical demands or simply falls out-of-favour with him, there is usually no way back once Guardiola has decided he wants a player to go.

During spells with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, Guardiola has allowed some talented players to leave regardless of their reputations.

But has he always made the correct decision when selling big-name players? Here is what happened next to every first-team striker moved on by Guardiola.

Samuel Eto’o

Sold to: Inter

Fee: Part-exchange for Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Current club: Retired

Was it a mistake? Yes

Fresh from helping Barcelona win an unprecedented treble in Guardiola’s maiden season in charge, Samuel Eto’o was deemed surplus to requirements and embarrassingly offered to Inter as a makeweight in a deal to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2009.

Still only 28 at the time, Eto’o appeared determined to prove his old manager wrong upon his arrival at the San Siro and quite incredibly, won the treble for a second consecutive year as Jose Mourinho’s Inter side won the lot in 2010. Even sweeter for Eto’o, his new side beat his old in a tempestuous Champions League semi-final meeting.

Admittedly, that season was the best it got for Eto’o upon leaving Barcelona as he embarked on a somewhat nomadic career in the years after, taking in stints with Anzhi Makhachkala, Chelsea, Everton, Sampdoria and Antalayaspor, who he briefly managed in 2015, before plying his trade at Qatar SC and eventually bowing out in September.

Eidur Gudjohnsen

Sold to: Monaco

Fee: Free

Current club: Iceland U21 (assistant)

Was it a mistake? No

By the time Guardiola had taken the reigns, Eidur Gudjohnsen had been fully converted into an attacking midfielder after previously starring as a striker for Chelsea in the Premier League.

Iceland’s greatest ever footballing export played a bit-part role in Barcelona’s treble-winning season and was allowed to join Monaco where he lasted just half a season.

Following Monaco, Gudjohnsen represented Tottenham, Stoke City, Fulham, Cercle Brugge, Club Brugge, Bolton Wanderers, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, Molde and Pune City in India. He retired in 2017 and is now assistant manager for Iceland U21s.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Sold to: AC Milan

Fee: £22m

Current club: AC Milan

Was it a mistake? Yes

Guardiola moved heaven and earth to land the gigantic Swedish striker, with Barcelona shelling out a then club-record £59m plus Samuel Eto’o to Inter in 2009.

Ibrahimovic started his career at Barcelona well and enjoyed a good record overall, scoring 22 goals in 46 games. However, there was a huge personality clash between him and Guardiola. In his autobiography, I am Zlatan, Ibrahimovic refers to Guardiola (negatively) as The Philosopher.

With Guardiola building his team around Lionel Messi, there was no space for Ibrahimovic and it was no surprise when he departed for AC Milan, initially on loan and then permanently for just £22m.

Ibrahimovic hasn’t exactly done badly since leaving the Camp Nou, winning 17 trophies over the past eight years with Milan, PSG and Manchester United. He briefly toured the States with LA Galaxy, where he netted an utterly ridiculous 53 goals in 58 games and is now back at the San Siro with Milan.

Thierry Henry

Sold to: New York Red Bulls

Fee: Free

Current club: Montreal Impact (manager)

Was it a mistake? No

Thierry Henry won the lot at Arsenal but the one thing missing from his trophy cabinet was a Champions League winners medal. He duly collected one of those while at Barcelona, playing his part in the 2009 treble success.

The following season saw him lose his place permanently to Pedro Rodriguez, culminating in a summer switch to New York Red Bulls where he went on to score 52 goals in 135 matches.

Henry even managed a short but sweet loan return to Arsenal midway through his stay in New York, further adding to his legend in the red half of north London by scoring two goals in seven appearances to take him to 228 for the club overall. He is now the head coach for Montreal Impact.

Bojan Krkic

Sold to: AS Roma

Fee: £10m

Current club: Montreal Impact

Was it a mistake? No

Lauded as the next great hope for Barcelona and Spain, Bojan Krkic had established himself as a regular member of the Barcelona squad in the season preceding Pep at the tender age of 17.

He continued to be involved heavily in Guardiola’s first three years in charge without fully establishing himself in the starting XI or building on the early promise he had shown under Frank Rijkaard.

Eventually, he decided to move on, joining Roma in 2011 before turning out for AC Milan, Ajax, Stoke City, Mainz and Alaves. Bojan won the Eredivisie while in Amsterdam and impressed in patches while at Stoke, but now finds himself at Montreal Impact under Henry.

At just 29, few could have predicted this once La Masia jewel would be plying his trade in Major League Soccer at this stage of his career.

Mario Gomez

Sold to: Fiorentina

Fee: £17.2m

Current club: Stuttgart

Was it a mistake? No

Despite plundering 113 goals in 174 games for Bayern Munich, Mario Gomez never looked like an ideal fit for Guardiola, owing to his lackadaisical work-rate and fitness issues.

He was promptly offloaded soon after Guardiola had arrived, with Florence a surprising if picturesque destination. Gomez’s spell at Fiorentina didn’t go particularly to plan, largely due to knee ligament problems, leading to a loan move to Besiktas in 2015.

It’s fair to say Gomez rediscovered his goalscoring touch in Turkey, scoring 28 goals in 33 league matches to fire Besiktas to the Turkish Super Lig title and that form resulted in a transfer back to Germany to join Wolfsburg. His 18 goals during his first season there helped the club avoid relegation and earned him the captain’s armband. However, just one goal in 12 appearances in his second season saw him return to his old club, Stuttgart, where he is now trying to guide the club back to the Bundesliga.

Mario Mandzukic

Sold to: Atletico Madrid

Fee: £18.7m

Current club: Al-Duhail

Was it a mistake? Yes (he would’ve remained useful)

The scorer of Bayern Munich’s opening goal in the 2013 Champions League final, Mario Mandzukic seemed to adapt well to Guardiola’s methods, scoring 26 goals in 48 matches in his debut season but was sold to Atletico Madrid to make room for Robert Lewandowski.

Despite appearing to be the perfect striker for Diego Simeone at Atletico, Mandzukic didn’t really find his feet in La Liga, culminating in a move to Juventus after just one season.

In Turin, though, the Croatian was a real success story, finding a niche for himself as a wide target man in Max Allegri’s side. His most memorable contribution for the Old Lady was to score a remarkable overhead kick in the Champions League 2017 final.

Mandzukic also scored three goals at the 2018 World Cup, including the winner in the semi-final against England to fire Croatia to their first ever World Cup final.

Despite signing a contract extension in 2019, it was made clear by Maurizio Sarri that Mandzukic had no place in his plans and the unorthodox forward left for Qatar in December.

Claudio Pizarro

Sold to: Werder Bremen

Fee: Free

Current club: Werder Bremen

Was it a mistake? No

A player who seemed to thrive at Bayern Munich, joining the club in 2012 following a fruitful stint at Werder Bremen.

The Peruvian hotshot stuck around at the Allianz for a further two years under Guardiola, managing 43 appearances and scoring 12 times but was allowed to leave at the end of his contract in 2015 to rejoin, you guessed it, Werder Bremen for a third spell.

During the 2017-18 season, Pizarro moved to FC Cologne, making 16 appearances and scoring just one goal. This prompted another move back to Werder Bremen to begin the latest chapter in football’s longest running love story.

Wilfried Bony

Loaned to: Stoke City

Current club: Al-Ittihad

Was it a mistake? No

With first-team football impossible to come by at the Etihad, Wilfried Bony looked to recapture the form that had made him one of the Premier League’s most feared frontmen by joining Stoke on loan.

Sadly for the Ivorian, he struggled to make any sort of impact for the Potters, scoring just twice in ten Premier League matches and he soon returned to Swansea. However, he was unable to rediscover his former spark in Wales and joined Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad earlier this year.

Kelechi Iheanacho

Sold to: Leicester City

Fee: £24.93m

Current Club: Leicester City

Was it a mistake? No

Despite scoring a very respectable 21 goals in 64 games during his two years with the Manchester City first team, Kelechi Iheanacho was offloaded to Leicester City following the arrival of Gabriel Jesus in January 2017.

Iheanacho’s £24.93m fee now looks like a wonderful piece of business, with Iheanacho only managing seven goals in 63 Premier League appearances for the Foxes so far. Meanwhile, his replacement, Jesus, has scored 37 in 92 Premier League games.