Pep Guardiola has officially confirmed he is to leave Bayern Munich when his contract expires at the end of the season; it will make him the hottest management property in the market, but he has set his sights on the Premier League.
“I want to experience a new city and I want to work in England,” He added: “I have an opportunity to work in England. I think I’m at the right age and I feel it is the right move for me. That is the reason I have taken this decision.” And insisted: “I have several offers from England but I haven’t signed anything yet.”
Guardiola made his name at Barcelona, where he transformed the club from a group of under-performing prima-donnas into one of the finest teams football has ever seen. Some big name players were soon shipped out and replaced, predominantly, in-house for a team magnified around the club’s now-fabled La Masia academy. Guardiola promoted players from the bench and youth team and demanded strict discipline and hard work to go with the ‘total football’ ethos Johan Cruyff had brought many years previous. The mix of graft, tactical innovation and technical ability brought incredible success: 3 La Liga titles, 2 Champions League wins and 2 Copa Del Rey victories in just four years.
The intensity of Barcelona’s football was matched by their coach and along with the pressure he put under himself and involved with his position, Guardiola needed a break. He took a year sabbatical before taking charge at Bayern Munich where he won the Bundesliga in both his first two seasons and has a seemingly unassailable lead again this season, he also won a DFB Pokal in his year at the Allianz, but a lack of success in the Champions League has been a source of frustration.
So with his track record of success and high reputation, there will be no shortage of interest in his services, but who in the Premier League will be the best fit for him next?
Here are the leading candidates:
The Blues pursued Guardiola during his sabbatical, before he announced he would be taking charge at Bayern Munich, so there is a long standing interest from owner Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea hot seat will be vacant this summer. Despite there being a high-quality, expensively assembled squad in place at Stamford Bridge, many may not suit the Guardiola style of play and have certainly not been accustomed to it. Abramovich has never been shy in making finances available for transfers, but he’s also not been shy in sacking managers and to make the stylistic changes at Chelsea for Guardiola to fully integrate his methods would take time and patience; that is not something associated with Chelsea.
The Old Trafford manager’s position is currently filled by Luis Van Gaal, but the Dutchman is coming under increasing pressure after poor results and an uninspiring style of play. Those in power at the club may be interested in Guardiola, they were rumoured to have unsuccessfully approached him to succeed Alex Ferguson; their fans will likely be interested and Guardiola may too. Despite spending hundreds of millions in the past couple of years, Van Gaal has overseen the United squad lose pace and become functional, so big squad changes would be needed. It has to be said that Manchester United are club likely to provide Guardiola the time and money that would require.
It is well known that Arsene Wenger will never break his contract at Arsenal and he is extremely unlikely to ever be sacked; so, for the Arsenal job to become available, it would probably require Wenger moving himself into a technical position within the club to facilitate the acquisition of Guardiola. Stylistically and philosophically, Arsenal are a perfect fit for Guardiola, with their technical pass and move possession football and fondness for developing younger players. The foundations would all be in place for Guardiola to make subtle changes and the strong financial position has seen them begin to make significant signings in recent years, so he would have all the tools at his disposal. The obvious problem though, is it’s unlikely that Wenger will step aside, but Wenger is 66 years old and may surprise by deciding the time is right and Guardiola is the perfect man to replace him.
On the face of it, City would appear to be the most natural fit. Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, who worked with Guardiola at Barcelona, are already in place at the Etihad, where a terrific academy and foundations for the future exist. Despite their willingness to spend and thirst for success, City’s owners have shown patience with managers over recent years, so Guardiola would not only have familiar faces behind the scenes, but also the time to implement his style of football and the financial backing to make the necessary squad changes. Current manager Manuel Pellegrini has won a Premier League title at City, but his failure to make them a European powerhouse may cost him if Guardiola is keen on his next job being at The Etihad.