Pep Guardiola had already taken the unconventional move of revealing he would be stepping down from his role at Bayern Munich at the end of the season, but he revealed the news we had all been waiting for at a press conference on Tuesday:
“I want to experience a new city and I want to work in England,” Guardiola said. “I have several offers from England but I haven’t signed anything yet. I have an opportunity to work in England. I’m at the right age and I feel it is the right move for me.”
Cue frenzied speculation as to where the 44 year old Spaniard will end up. Guardiola added that the appointment will be done the “right” way, through his new employer. The club making that announcement will almost certainly be Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea.
Whether you’re a fan of his style or not, one thing you have to admire about Guardiola is his determination to work in the Premier League. He could easily have remained at Bayern winning Bundesliga after Bundesliga with no real serious competition, but he wants to prove himself in what is definitely Europe’s most competitive league if not its strongest. Prior to his spell at Bayern many wondered why Guardiola saw fit to leave Barcelona after delivering huge success in a four year spell including three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues. His competitive nature is exactly what makes Guardiola a unique beast, he is always looking for the next challenge. The question now is where he sees this challenge, London or Manchester? Red or Blue?
For Arsenal fans Guardiola would have been the ideal replacement for Arsene Wenger, but his arrival to England will come too soon for the gunners with the Frenchman likely to remain in the hot seat for at least another season or two. Arsenal fans will be loath to admit it, but they would most likely have been his fourth choice after Chelsea and the Manchester clubs in any case.
Many people are still bemused at how Louis Van Gaal is still in charge at Manchester United, however it appears the board have given the erratic Dutch man their full backing. Until the end of the season at least. Could they be waiting to swoop for Guardiola? This theory is certainly a plausible one. Ed Woodward and co will have to move early though if they are to win Guardiola’s signature. They appear to have ruled out Jose Mourinho, so Guardiola’s name could well be at the back of their minds, if so now is the time to move.
Manchester City and Chelsea are still the favourites despite Guardiola’s insistence that no decision has been made yet. One factor United have in their favour is the pull of the club’s stature and history in the game. Sky Sports showed a clip from an interview with Guardiola in 2013 on Tuesday which could provide an insight into his intentions. In it he revealed one of the few regrets he has in his career was a proposed move to Old Trafford when he was still playing which failed to materialise. He then revealed he hoped he could be involved at United in a coaching capacity at some stage in the future. Well Pep, now’s your chance.
Manchester City seems to be the front runners so far, but things are rarely straight forward in appointments like this. However, the evidence points towards the Etihad Stadium being a very tempting destination. City director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano have a long history with Guardiola both in terms of friendship and their working relationship from Barcelona. Bergiristain has also assured City’s Abu Dhabi ownership that Guardiola can be lured to the blue half of Manchester which is an ominous sign for the other three suitors.
Manuel Pellegrini has a contract until 2017, however a compensation package for the Chilean manager would be no problem with City’s deep pockets. Indeed, many were surprised that Pellegrini kept his job amid intense speculation last summer. Guillem Balague was in the Sky studio to discuss the press conference along with Zidane’s first as Madrid manager, the Spanish journalist made the point that Guardiola is ambitious with his projects and the project at City is arguably one of the biggest in football history. He felt the challenge to deliver regular titles and a European cup to City may be too much to turn down. Balague was in agreement that City is Guardiola’s most likely destination but insisted that this was far from set in stone. Sky Sport’s German correspondent Uli Koehler made this bold claim: “We know 100 per cent that he will definitely join Manchester City next year and it make sense.” However, he didn’t seem to have any fresh sources, his main evidence was the links to Bergistain and Soriano.
Of the four clubs linked, Chelsea are the only one who definitely need to appoint a new manager this summer with Gus Hiddink set to vacate his caretaker role at the end of the season. However Guardiola will be wary of the club after what happened to Jose Mourinho, while there is no shortage of money at Stamford Bridge, he would also not be given as much free rein with the club’s cheque book as he would be offered at either of the Manchester clubs. There have been some suggestions that Guardiola could find London a more attractive destination than Manchester, if that were the case Chelsea would be firmly in the lead. Make no mistake though his decision will be purely based on which club he thinks is right for his footballing agenda.
For anyone that feels the deal is already done in secret and Guardiola’s destination decided, Balague told a story which highlights Guardiola’s word in insisting he has not made up his mind. When he left Barcelona the departure had been kept such a tight secret that some leading Barcelona players were left in tears. Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquests and Gerard Pique all pleaded in vain for their mentor to reconsider but his mind has already been made up. His mind has been made up with regards England, but only Guardiola knows which of the four clubs leads the chase. One thing is for certain, he will face serious challenges at which ever one he chooses. Arsenal and City are seeking to claim a foothold in the English game, while United and Chelsea cling to their status as big guns for fear of slipping down the ladder. One thing is for sure, wherever he goes, it will be intriguing. English football is in for a treat.