Ranking the five players to make the most appearance under Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola stands as one of the most successful managers of his, or any, era following a career spent at the pinnacle of European football, winning a wealth of major honours across three of the continent’s major leagues.

Guardiola has won league titles with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, in addition to twice lifting the Champions League with the former in a career spent coaching some of the world’s finest footballers.

We look at the players the Catalan has selected on more occasions than any other, here are the five players to make the most appearances under Pep Guardiola:

Kevin De Bruyne – 199 appearances

Arguably the most crucial cog in Guardiola’s current City outfit, Kevin De Bruyne has established himself as one of the best midfielders in world football under the Spaniard’s guidance at the Etihad.

De Bruyne’s ranks fifth for appearances under Guardiola with his 199 outings one more than former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, the Belgium international having enjoyed huge success with two Premier League titles amongst his honours.

The 29-year-old became the fastest player in Premier League history to reach 50 assists and equalled the record for most goals provided in a single campaign last term, his performances rewarded with the PFA Player of the Year award.

De Bruyne is now just two assists short of entering the Premier League’s all-time top 10 and there are few players more important than the star to Guardiola’s hopes of conquering Europe with City.

Dani Alves – 208 appearances

Dani Alves once quipped that Pep Guardiola’s coaching was ‘better than sex’ following an unprecedented period of success under the Spaniard at Barcelona, winning 14 trophies across just four seasons and twice being crowned champions of Europe.

Alves is the most decorated player in the history of football following an astonishing career, though the Brazilian’s best years undoubtedly came as a tour de force in the colours of Barcelona.

The flying full-back starred with his forays forward and formed a telepathic understanding with Lionel Messi down the Spanish side’s right flank, dovetailing superbly with the world’s best player during a golden era in Catalonia.

There has perhaps never been greater emphasis placed on the role of the full-back but Alves was a player far ahead of his time, capable of exerting a great influence at both ends of the pitch and amongst the most creative players of a generation.

Xaxi – 208 appearances

Sitting level with Alves on 208 appearances under Guardiola is Xavi, the centre-piece of a Barcelona side many regard as the best club football has ever seen.

The midfielder came through the club’s fabled La Masia academy system before starring in the first team for more than a decade, winning eight league titles and lifting the Champions League on four occasions.

Xavi controlled games like few players ever have before or since, the midfield metronome of a Barcelona side that brought tiki-taka to the world and suffocated oppositions sides with dominant possession and passing precision.

The Spanish icon was one of a number of players who proved that technical talent trumps physical qualities, a brilliant footballing brain who made opposition players chase shadows with off-the-ball-movement, quick-thinking and flawless one and two-touch play.

Lionel Messi – 218 appearances

Regarded by many as the greatest footballer to have ever played the game, the very best years of Lionel Messi came under the guidance of Guardiola at the Camp Nou.

Messi scored an incredible total of 211 goals in just 218 appearances under the Spaniard’s management, in addition to providing a further 97 assists as Barcelona dominated both at home and on the continent.

His goalscoring improved season upon season with the highlight being a record-breaking 2011/12, setting a new record for most goals in a European campaign with 73 in all competitions – including a barely believable 50 in just 37 league fixtures for the Catalans.

The Argentine and Guardiola will forever be linked for the success they enjoyed in partnership, Messi becoming the first player in history to win four consecutive Ballon d’Or awards during an unforgettable period under Guardiola’s tutelage.

Raheem Sterling – 219 appearances

Leading the way for appearances under Pep Guardiola is Raheem Sterling, with the winger having clocked up his 219th appearance under the Spaniard during Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Manchester United in the Carabao Cup semi-finals last week.

Sterling has made huge progress during his four-and-a-half seasons under Guardiola’s guidance, evolving from a talented but frustrating prospect into one of Europe’s most productive wide forwards.

Just two players – Messi and Sergio Aguero – have scored more league goals under Guardiola with Sterling having netted a career-best 31 goals in all competitions for City last season.

The 26-year-old has won six major honours since Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad as well as individual recognition with FWA Footballer of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year accolades, Sterling amongst the finest forwards in the Premier League at present and a key figure in England’s hopes of international success.

Read – Picking the best Barcelona XI of the Lionel Messi era

Read Also – Ranking the 10 best Premier League players of the 2000’s

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