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    Pep Guardiola - Destination Unknown

    Written by Antony Martin

    It is one of the biggest questions in the world of football. Where will Pep Guardiola find himself come August this year? He has already stated he wants to manage in the Premier League, and that is the reason he didn’t renew his contract at Bayern Munich. Then he recants his statement saying it could be two years before he manages a club in the Premier League, if at all. Don’t let this fool you. After heavy criticism from big names in football, including Alan Shearer, Pep went on to apologise to managers who thought their jobs had been destabilised. This reeks of a good PR stunt that any management company worth their salt would instigate. So, despite Pep’s words, expect to see him on English shores come the summer.

    Any club in England’s top division would take the trophy-laden Spaniard on board in a heartbeat. So it is not only a question of what clubs will make a move for him, but more so, where does Pep actually want to go. The obvious destination, and leading contender with the bookmakers, is Manchester City. The fit seems perfect, and it ticks every box for both parties. The higher powers at the Etihad have made no secret of their pursuit of Guardiola in previous years. They fiercely pursued his signature whilst he was on a years sabbatical from football during the 2012/13 season, only for the Bavarian giants to win the race. He signed a three year deal with Bayern in the summer of 2013, and from that date the Manchester City chiefs ear-marked the the start of the 2016 season as the time when they would get their man. With the vast amounts of money spent on transfer fees under the reign of Manuel Pellegrini the City owners and fans arguably would have expected more of a return than one Premier League title and one League Cup in his three year spell. Combine this with City’s perceived lack of progress in the Champions League and it is hard to make a concrete case that he has been a complete success. In fact it is widely assumed that the Chilean would have lost his job at the end of last season had Guardiola been available then. Instead the City board gave him a one year contract extension, knowing that Pep would be available the following summer. Fast forward six months and Guardiola states he is to leave Bayern at the end of the season with his destination to be somewhere in England. So will it be Manchester City? Or will another of the Premier League’s elite stake a claim for the best manager in world?  Let’s take a look at what is the ex-Barcelona man’s most likely destination.

    Pep Guardiola to Manchester City seems to be the ideal fit. Guardiola, 44, is still a young and ambitious manager, and City are looking for their next appointment to be long-term. They want to build a dynasty, with the prototype being a certain Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, at least in the longevity stakes. The next manager will not only be armed with one of European footballs biggest transfer budgets, but also an extremely exciting crop of youngsters coming out of their new two hundred million pound academy. This is one of the two main reasons Pep will be the right man for City. He has loved working with youngsters all throughout his career, and takes great pride in bringing a young academy graduate through to become a first-team regular.  In fact, in 2012 in a match against Levante Guardiola fielded eleven players that were all graduates from the famed La Masia academy. He loves working with raw talent, and imposing his style of play and philosophies upon them, so that by the time they reach their prime years, they have been groomed into a Guardiola disciple, and everything that comes along with that. He has standards higher than any other manager. Work-rate, technique, power, pace, intelligence and professionalism all rank highly among his desired attributes, and he will not accept the notion a player cannot have all of those qualities. A prime example of this would be the sale of Toni Kroos to Real Madrid. Highly regarded and thought of as one of the best midfield play-makers in the world, many couldn’t understand his sale to a Champions League rival. Although Pep liked him as a player, he didn’t feel he had the engine to play the high intensity, high press style he has always demanded of his teams. The sale of Yaya Toure is another example of this. With this in mind, you would have to think City’s impressive academy would strongly appeal to the Spaniard.

    Another reason for Pep to go The Etihad, and probably the most significant, would be the presence of two of the old Barcelona hierarchy. CEO, Ferran Soriano and Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain have been at The Etihad for three and a half years, and their strong relationship with Guardiola would play a significant role in his appointment. It was in fact Begiristain who strongly supported Pep as a candidate for the Barcelona hot seat in 2008. Over the four years since they parted ways they have kept in close contact, with Guardiola’s passion to work in England always high on their topics of conversation. This relationship has the potential to be the deal clincher. 

    With Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal touted as other possible destinations, it is not entirely a one-horse-race. The lure of the offer of a blank cheque from Roman Abramovich would be appealing to many, but money and wealth is not a prime motivation for Pep. Besides, he has more than enough of that already, let’s be honest. Arsenal seem to be an unlikely contender for his signature given the fact that the evergreen Arsene Wenger seems certain to sign another contract extension. Perhaps City’s biggest competition for the appointment of Guardiola is in fact their fiercest rivals, Manchester United. Pep has always talked highly of United, especially in the Ferguson years, and being manager of the biggest club in world football is always a hugely attractive proposition for any body. Louis Van Gaal’s tumultuous spell looks set to be cut short at the end of the season, especially if United fail to qualify for the Champions League, and surely Ed Woodward and Co should be doing all that is in their power to bring the Catalonian to Old Trafford. With this in mind, however, you get the sense that the balance of power is shifting, not only regionally but in the sense of world-wide reputation. City have a youth development academy in place now that is superior to their neighbours, and an infrastructure that has the potential to be stronger than United’s. It is intriguing how United,  with their heavy emphasis on youth development, have been usurped by City in locating and recruiting the best young prospects for their academy. Also the fact that United don’t have a Director of Football has found them falling behind when trying to recruit the world’s best players in the modern game. All of the biggest clubs in world football are run by a team of highly paid experts nowadays. The times of Alex Ferguson knowing the name of the tea lady and flying out to different countries to conclude transfer deals are dying out, and Manchester City have this department nailed. An army of scouts, sports nutritionists, fitness experts, chief negotiators and directors of football assist the manager in the every day running of the club. The modern day Barcelona blue print for success has been emulated at Manchester City from player diets to boardroom organization, with one missing ingredient - Pep Guardiola. You get the feeling that now is the time for City to complete the duplication of that great Barcelona team with the arrival of the much revered Spaniard. Only time will tell.
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    Item Reviewed: Pep Guardiola - Destination Unknown Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Antony Martin
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