A week after Pep Guardiola joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old, Johann Cruyff picked him out during a youth match and identified him as a perceptive defensive midfielder, a star for the future. Guardiola would go on to spend two decades at Barcelona as a player and a manager. For the younger generation of supporters who delighted in his all-conquering tiki-taka team, he is Barcelona.
Real Madrid could've snapped up young Pep
Yet, if Guardiola were 40 years younger, his career could have taken a radically different route; a route through Real Madrid.
The Manchester City manager spent his formative years at Gimnástic Manresa, a lower-league club from the Catalan countryside, north-west of Barcelona. Barça have historically maintained a close relationship with Manresa. In the last five years alone, they have sent more than 50 young players to the Azulgrana. Yet that relationship has come to an end, and Real Madrid have stepped in to take the place of their arch-rivals.
In the summer of 2017, Manresa signed a 'feeder club' agreement with Madrid. The terms of the agreement are that Madrid pay Manresa an annual fee of €35,000, and in exchange, Los Blancos have the pick of Manresa's talented young players.
So if precocious Pep had been born in 2011, rather than 1971, it is highly likely that his talent would have taken him to the Santiago Bernabéu.
On Wednesday, five youth teams from Gimnástic Manresa played against their Real Madrid counterparts at Valdebebas, Madrid's training complex. Who knows? Perhaps the next Pep Guardiola is amongst them, and perhaps he will go on to define an era at Real Madrid.