When Pep Guardiola announced he was leaving Barça at the end of last season I have to admit I wondered whether we would ever see him coaching again. His four incredibly successful years as Barça’s first team coach had left their mark on the man and there was always the chance that, like Johan Cruyff before him, he would decide that he could live a very happy life without all the stress involved running a top club.
However, at yesterday’s Fifa Ballon d’Or gala in Zurich Guardiola put an to any such speculation by saying ‘I don’t know where, but I’ll coach again. I’m young, 41 years old and I’m keen to work.’ This is excellent news for the world of football as it would be a great shame to lose such an innovative thinker. Now the big question is: where is he going to go?
Over coffee this morning a waiter with a knowing grin insisted to me that Guardiola would end up at Real Madrid next season. While it may be true that Florentino Perez might see Guardiola as the only person capable of overturning the mess left by Mourinho, I find it very difficult to believe that Guardiola would be willing to take the job. Firstly, because of his innate sense of Catalanism and his blaugrana blood. Some may say that if the money was right he could be tempted, but is seems sure that another of Europe’s big spenders would match whatever Florentino might offer. Guardiola has seen how unwelcome his old friend Luis F*go is in Barcelona and he would surely not want to become like to become some kind of outcast in his own land. Secondly, I believe that if Guardiola has been planning a comeback all this time it is with the idea of taking a team in the English Premier League.
For a while I had believed that the perfect job for Guardiola would be to take over at Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson finally calls it a day. United are the one big club in England that has continually produced players through their youth system, the philosophy is for attacking football, while the culture of giving the manager time is now well ingrained after Ferguson’s successes. However the 71-year-old’s recent interview hinting that he is ready to stay on probably rule out the possibility.
The two biggest contenders to sign Guardiola are probably Manchester City and Chelsea. Both clubs have the necessary money, they have very talented squads and will probably be in the Champions League next season. It is well known that Roman Abramovich has long sought Guardiola, and Pep may well be tempted by the idea of living in London – after all he chose New York with all its cultural offerings for his sabbatical year rather than spending his time on a beach or a golf course like many others might have – and he may feel that the English capital would be the best place for his family. However, he is unlikely to have been impressed by Abrahomich’s recent sacking of Roberto di Matteo, and may feel the Chelsea owner is not the most ideal boss for him. At Manchester City he would be rejoining Txiki Beguiristain, who was appointed as their director of football at the end of October, and ex-Barça director Ferran Soriano who is City’s general director. Whether or not the idea of working with Beguiristain and Soriano is unknown. What appears to be a positive point in City’s favour may turn out to be the reason for going elsewhere. Both the City job and the Chelsea job have the added ingredient of the possibility of José Mourinho also being a candidate. It should make for an interesting summer.
Pep may prefer to take a club that has not been quite so successful in recent years with the idea of returning the club to former heights. In this sense a team like Liverpool or either of the other big London clubs Arsenal or Tottenham could be tempting if the position became available. I understand that many Arsenal fans are getting tired of Arsene Wenger though it seems he has the eternal backing of the board. What would make for a really interesting situation would be for Wenger to fill the hot seat left by Mourinho at Madrid with Pep taking over at the Emirates. For now it’s all just speculation but it’s going to fill plenty of newspaper pages until a decision is taken. Where do you think he’ll end up?