Bayern Munich proudly announced Pep Guardiola would be taking over from Jupp Heynckes on May 1.
The former Barcelona boss won three La Liga titles, two Champions League titles, two Club World Cups, amongst others, and coached arguably the greatest footballing side the world has ever seen. While Guardiola’s decision will have disappointed so many people in England, he may simply be waiting for the right moment to move to these shores.
As soon as Josep Guardiola i Sala, to give his full name, announced he was leaving Barcelona and taking a year-long sabbatical, the rumour mill started linking him with the giants of English football. Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich was a big admirer and tried to lure Guardiola in the summer after the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo. Manchester United and Arsenal were mentioned, while the appointment of former Barcelona executives Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, as director of football and chief executive respectively, inevitably resulted in Manchester City joining the hunt.
There are many reasons why these clubs would want a coach of Guardiola’s stature, but the doubters pointed out that Barcelona are unique in the way they bring through talented players from their La Masia academy, bringing continuity to their playing style while also maintaining their very high standards and winning trophies. No club can replicate that culture (nor a player of Leo Messi’s quality) and closer examination of Guardiola’s time at Barca showed that he struggled to bring in players who lacked the Barca upbringing. His biggest flops were some of his biggest signings – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (€46 million plus Samuel Eto’o) lasted only a year at Barcelona before moving to AC Milan, while Dmytro Chygrynskiy was signed for €25 million from Shaktar Donestk and returned to Ukraine a year later at a loss of €10 million.
Would a Chelsea side halfway through a revolution be the best next move after Barcelona? What about moneybags City? Even Manchester United and Arsenal have struggled to bring through players from their own academies in the last few years and failed to compete with Europe’s elite.
Guardiola needed somewhere that was stable, with good youth coming through, already successful and with money available if needed. Bayern meets all those requirements and the fact Germany is one of the most fertile breeding grounds for young players will no doubt have helped convince the Spaniard that it was the best move for him and his career.
City have a strong first XI but, as Roberto Mancini is quick to say, they lack strength in depth. That in itself is remarkable given how much money they have spent but it is also a sign that below the senior squad there are not enough youngsters showing promise. Soriano and Begiristain are no doubt tasked with addressing that issue, especially with Financial Fair Play on the horizon. Until that talent comes through, Guardiola would be mad to take charge at City as the pressure would be on him to win trophies, introduce an attractive, attacking playing style, and to use the club’s bank balance to get them there.
If City can improve their academy system and introduce quality to the teams below the senior squad then they will become immensely attractive to Guardiola. The man himself has said he wants to manage in England, to experience the fervent support of the crowd and the fanatical love for the game, so while they have missed out on him this time, Manchester City could be the next club Guardiola manages.
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