'He inherited a team of winners' - Deco tempers Guardiola's Barcelona achievements

The Brazilian has been in awe of the Spaniard’s tactics since he came to the club in 2016 and has also praised compatriot Fernandinho

Pep Guardiola was fortunate to inherit a Barcelona team made up of pioneers with a winning ethos, according to former midfielder Deco.

The ex-Portugal international played for the Catalan club between 2004 and 2008, a period of transformation in the club’s fortunes masterminded by manager Frank Rijkaard that saw Barca return to their title-contending form of the late 90s.

The club won successive La Liga titles between 2004 and 2006, as well as a first Champions League trophy since 1992, and Deco believes this lay the foundations for the wild successes of Guardiola’s tenure.

Speaking to Spanish newspaper Sport he said: “I remember that when I arrived at Barca, people were crazy about winning a title, even if it was a Copa del Rey. We managed to reverse that trend, and then the club had the ability to continue winning.

"If not, today we would talk about the Champions of Paris as they once talked about Wembley '92.

“After us, Barca had the luck, which in reality is not luck but work, to combine three things: a young coach with new ideas, the best player in history and the best generation of Spanish football born precisely at Barca.”

Deco left Spain to join Chelsea in 2008, and when asked whether the Barcelona side he played in pioneered a new winning mentality for the Catalan giants he said: “Yes, Barca today is very different from fifteen years ago. Today, Barca is accustomed to winning. The league no longer has the same sense as before.

“Now, if you win league and cup it is fine, but it's not perfect. And that is the merit of this generation; Leo's leadership in recent years and with Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Piqué, and company.

He added: “We started, but they set the bar very high.”

The promotion of Guardiola from B team manager in 2008 heralded a shift in emphasis towards his now synonymous tiki-taka style of play for Barca, with the likes of Deco and his compatriot Ronaldinho being sold to pave the way for a side built around the talents of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.