Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City tenure hasn’t even begun, yet the Citizens’ hierarchy are already planning for life after the Spaniard.
According to the Mirror, the club’s sporting director Txiki Begiristain has a four-man shortlist of managers to take over from Guardiola, who will arrive when his Bayern Munich contract expires in the summer.
The Catalan has signed a three-year contract at the Premier League club but is not expected to stay beyond his agreed deal.
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And, instead of simply turning the club into a European elite, City hope Guardiola will also establish a first-class coaching culture at the club’s state-of-the-art academy, which opened last year.
That will lay the framework for his successor to come in and make full use of City’s academy.
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Begiristain has identified Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel, Roger Schmidt and Eddie Howe as the men to lead City post-Guardiola, and the four are being closely monitored.
Meanwhile, the paper adds that the mass overhaul of City’s squad, which was expected to come in the summer, will not happen.
Instead, a handful of quality additions will be pursued by the wealthy club as they look to join Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as Europe’s top clubs.
The list of targets includes Schalke forward Leroy Sane and Ajax midfielder Riechedly Bazoer.
However, it’s hard not to imagine Guardiola poaching at least one Bayern Munich player. He has coached the club for three seasons and will surely have identified some players he wants to bring to England.
City will face stiff competition in their pursuit of Tottenham’s Pochettino. The Argentinian has earned rave reviews for building a relentless team that is competing atop the Premier League.
Spurs are five points behind Leicester and also have a Europa League last 16 tie with Dortmund to come.
In that tie, Pochettino will come up against the equally impressive Tuchel. The German, who replaced Jurgen Klopp last year, has led his team to within five points of Bundesliga leaders Bayern and they are favourites to win Europe’s lesser competition.
They might have to overcome Bayer Leverkusen at some point. Roger Schmidt’s team have had a disappointing season - they are eighth in the table, 27 points behind Bayern - but Schmidt’s high-pressing style has been widely praised.
The last candidate is Bournemouth’s Howe. After Leicester and West Ham, the Cherries have been the story of the Premier League and look set for another season in England’s top flight.
Howe’s team are 11 points above the drop zone and if they continue to rise, the English coach will be seen as a viable successor to Guardiola in 2019.
If only Manchester United had shown this level of planning when Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.