Rangel's Pep talk
22nd September 2016
Michael Laudrup once told Angel Rangel a story about Pep Guardiola.
Laudrup, Swansea City's former manager, was one of the established megastars in Barcelona's 1990s Dream Team.
Guardiola, meantime, had just made the step up from Barca's youth ranks to the first team at Camp Nou.
"Michael Laudrup told me about how he was one of the senior players, aged 29 or 30, and Guardiola was just a youngster," Rangel explains.
"But Laudrup said Guardiola already had the character of the manager.
"He used to tell Laudrup to keep it simple. Michael Laudrup could do the most difficult things in the world with the ball, but Guardiola was telling him to keep it simple!
"I think you could see that character you need to be a coach was already there."
An elegant midfielder blessed with technical quality and tactical nous, Guardiola enjoyed a stellar playing career which came to an end a decade ago.
But it is as a manager that he has built a reputation as arguably the best around.
In four years as Barcelona boss, Guardiola won three La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups and the Copa del Rey twice.
And in his three seasons at Bayern Munich, Guardiola celebrated a hat-trick of Bundesliga triumphs, two German Cups and another Club World Cup victory.
The numerous successes have been achieved by playing a brand of passing football that has won admirers across the footballing world.
"In his Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides, the goalkeepers were like sweepers both on and off the ball," says Rangel.
"It is not something we have seen a lot of in the Premier League. It's like having 11 outfield players."
Rangel, who faced Guardiola's new side in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night, has some inside information on Manchester City's new boss.
"His assistant manager, Dominic Torrent, used to be my manager in Spain," he adds.
"That was at Girona, who were the equivalent of League One level, and he then went to join Guardiola at Barcelona.
"You could see then that he had the same philosophy - he always wanted to play the ball out from the back. Maybe that's why they get on and have worked together for so long.
"Also, another assistant of his was Tito Villanova, who has sadly passed away.
"I worked with him before I came to Swansea, when I was playing for Terrassa, and then he moved to Barcelona B with Guardiola.
"I know the philosophy those people had. They wanted 11 players playing out from the back, just like Guardiola."
Manchester City's new leader was one of Rangel's idols as a kid alongside the likes of Laudrup, Ronald Koeman and Hristo Stoichkov.
The closest he has got to him since becoming a footballer himself was when the Swans were on tour in Spain during Roberto Martinez's reign and watched Barcelona's senior squad train just before a friendly against the Catalan giants' B side.
"We watched the first team in the Mini Estadi," Rangel recalls.
"I spoke to Tito and Domenec. Guardiola was busy unfortunately so I didn't speak to him.
"It was great being so close to the players at the time - Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o.
"We were not a Premier League team at that point. It was a wow moment for us being so close to them.
"Now we are playing against Guardiola's team. It is just another sign of how far we have come as a club."
A much-changed Swans team were beaten by Guardiola's City side in the EFL Cup, though the Etihad giants did not have it all their own way.
This weekend, Rangel and Co will try to make life difficult for City once more - and ensure they do not leave Wales with a pair of victories.
"When you play a team who are managed by Guardiola, you know they will pass the ball around and they will also press a lot from the front," Rangel says.
"We know we need to be at our best in every single aspect of the game if we are going to get a result."
Rangel is one of those senior players who has not had as many minutes as he might have liked in the early weeks of the new season.
He is attempting to grasp every opportunity which comes his way with both hands.
"I am always hungry," says Rangel, who made his 150th Premier League appearance in the Swans' loss at Southampton last weekend. "I keep saying it, but fitness-wise I am still up there - the numbers do not lie.
"I also have an extra role these days. At my age maybe you might not play 30 games in a season, but you are still an important squad player.
"You try to push everyone in training. If anyone sees a player who is nearly 34 years old running more than them, it tells them they are doing something wrong. I try to set a good example and hopefully that helps the squad.
"As far as game-time goes, I just wait for my chance. The manager knows he has me here and he has my support.
"He has been very respectful to me. On and off the pitch it's important to keep all of the group together to reach what we want to achieve.
"It is an unforgiving league. When you have a few bad results, it's difficult to get out of the run. But it's important to stick together, and the senior players can help us do that."