The biggest attraction during the FIFA event weren’t the players nominated for the Ballon d’Or but the manager every team on the planet wants to sign, Pep Guardiola.
The decision has now been officially made – Six months since taking his sabbatical from coaching, Guardiola is ready to get back into the game. It seems that every big club in Europe is interested in signing the man whose stock rose dramatically over four years with Barcelona, winning three league titles and two Champions League trophies.
Before he goes anywhere and before anyone signs him, there is a letter of caution that needs to be adressed, although Guardiola, very critical of himself through every stage of his career, probably knows the warning all to well.
He was the right man in the right system when he became the head coach of Barcelona. A well loved player for the club and an appreciated youth manager as well. He got the first team playing the system he knows very well, not to mention the amount of talent, Lionel Messi waiting on top of that. All of this will be different once he begins working for another club, and the connection between him, the fans and the ownership (which happens to be from the fans) won’t be the same.
Part of the attraction of coming back but not to Barcelona is the challenge of succeeding somewhere else; showing he can make it without the support and comfort of his former club. He won’t be taking some poor team and try to rebuild it mind you; the option laid in front of him all point towards the richest clubs in Europe, with plenty of talent and/or money for upgrades.
There are the heir option – Manchester United and Arsenal. I think Ferguson is enjoying the talk of a successor, not a replacement. It leads to some sucking up from people like Jose Mourinho and a tad Guardiola, although at the moment, Guardiola is the man most clubs in the world are trying to attract. Still, there’s no deadline as to when Ferguson will retire, and it doesn’t like something that might happen at the end of this season.
How about Arsenal? Less likely, just because they seem to be a level below the rest of the teams chasing Guardiola in terms of ambition. Arsene Wenger isn’t exactly on solid ground when it comes to the fans, but as long as he keeps bringing Champions League berths while not spending too much money, the board is happy.
Then there’s the nouveau riche options. Chelsea, Manchester City and possibly even PSG. Roman Abramovic would have let Roberto Di Matteo go a minute after winning the Champions League if he knew Guardiola was willing to come at that moment. Going to work for someone as unpredictable as Abramovich is a risk, but Chelsea offer a very intruiging and lucrative option, with a Spanish foundation already brewing at the club.
Manchester City aren’t talking about letting Roberto Mancini go, but without a league title this season, after two failures in the Champions League, it seems Mancini doesn’t have too much going for him when it comes to keeping his job. It’s safe to say City offer a more stable working enviornment than Chelsea.
PSG is also an option, but not exactly as well. If Carlo Ancelotti wins the league title he won’t be replaced. Another problem is the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There’s a good chance Pep and Zlatan can’t be found in the same room.
Bayern Munich is a very interesting option – Jupp Heynckes is probably gone at the end of the season, even if he wins the league title after two seasons of finishing behind Dortmund. Then there are the Italian options – AC Milan, Inter and maybe even Juventus, if certain things unfold. It’s rumored that Real Madrid would like Antonio Conte to replace Jose Mourinho. An opening in the biggest Italian club at the moment might be a lucrative option for Guardiola. Milan want him badly, but do not offer the financial capability they once had, and so does Inter.
Best chances? Chelsea or Manchester City, although I wouldn’t throw Bayern Munich out of the running as well. It’s not guaranteed yet, but Guardiola will probably be standing on the sidelines of one of these clubs in six months time.