Wednesday, January 20, 2016

After Munich, Where Will Star Manager Pep Guardiola Land?

By Justin Sherman (@JShermanOfficial)

After months of speculation regarding Pep Guardiola’s future, following his reluctance to sign a contract extension with German powerhouse Bayern Munich, the inevitable was announced a few weeks back -- Guardiola is gone.

Despite two-and-a-half extremely successful years in Bavaria, that included back-to-back Bundesliga titles and one German cup, the Spaniard has decided to end a marriage that seemed destined to be short lived from the start.

Who knows, maybe things would have been different with a Champions League triumph or two. After all, Guardiola’s appointment was completely centered around conquering Europe, since Bayern had been facing little opposition on the domestic front lately. However, he failed to add to the two Champions League trophies he won while in charge of Barcelona, having reached the semifinals for the past two seasons, before losing in embarrassing fashion.

There have also been disagreements with the Bayern medical staff, which led to a parting of the ways with the highly regarded team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt last season, along with three other members of staff. Despite this, Guardiola will finish the season with Bayern, again leading the Bundesliga table, and again entering the Champions League as a prohibitive favorite.

Guardiola has made his intentions for next season clear: It's a job in the English Premier League, or nothing.

He will go into next summer as quite possibly the most sought after coaching free agent in history, and so let's break down his potential landing spots.

Alexis Sanchez and company bring an attractive style of football suitable to Guardiola.

Location wise, Arsenal are perfect. Sources close to Guardiola believe that living in London would be extremely appealing to the manager and his family. Stylistically, the gunners seem to fit as well.

Arsenal play a brand of possession-oriented, short-passing football that closely resembles the Pep Guardiola blueprint. The team also possesses fantastic midfield play in the likes of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla, with speed on the wings in Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott.

The real problem with this move lies in the ownership box, and with the manager already roaming the touchline. Stan Kroenke, who famously just shipped the Rams out of St. Louis to Los Angeles, is entirely happy with the financial prudence and organizational stability under Arsene Wenger.

Guardiola demands an obsession for winning from the starting eleven all the way to the groundskeeper. Arsenal’s reluctance to spend big in transfer windows, or to enforce a tough dressing room culture, runs counter to the Spaniards methods of operation.

Although Wenger's contract expires in the summer of 2017, it is highly unlikely that A). they would sack a manager who has been with the club 20 years, holding great fan affection, or B). persuade Pep to spend a year on sabbatical before taking over at the expiration of Wenger's contract.

Prediction: I have a better chance of becoming Prime Minister of Spain.

The defending EPL champions have struggled mightily this season.

London based? check. High spending owner? check. World class players? check.

Sounds like a marriage made in heaven, right? Not quite.

Chelsea is having a disastrous season, and that’s putting it kindly. Chelsea currently sit 14th in the table, a staggering 14 points behind the 4th and final Champions League qualification spot.

Jose Mourinho has been sacked only six months after winning the EPL crown.

Their creative stars such as Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas have underperformed dramatically, and the much more physical threats of Nemanja Matic, Diego Costa and company have more resembled teddy bears, too.

Chelsea, on the whole, are low on inspiration, and even less on desire. With a volatile owner and no Champions League for next season (unless they win the current edition, which is very unlikely), the prospect of Pep managing the blues would be nothing short of a shock.

I wouldn’t even bet a $100 on it.

With a fortune in the billions, Man City owner Sheikh Mansour has lots to smile about.
Manchester City

We’ve finally made it to everybody's second-favorite rainy British city.

It feels like for years we’ve been hearing rumors of Pep and Man City being inevitable. Just this spring, sources close to owner Sheikh Mansour revealed that Guardiola had agreed to take over from current manager Manuel Pellegrini at the start of the 2015/16 season. Guardiola, however, stayed in Munich, and Pellegrini's contract was renewed for another year.

The rumors then came circling back around this autumn, with the 2016/17 season being the new starting date amid contracts being signed.

To be fair, the rumors have merit.

Guardiola enjoys an excellent working relationship with Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, the former Barcelona officials now occupying the roles of director of football and CEO, respectively, at the Etihad. There's no doubt that both of them have been trying hard to lure him to Man City for quite some time in an effort to replicate their historic success in Catalunya.

City already possess an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent and resources, now they just need the right manager to put it all together. This is not a knock on Manuel Pellegrini, who has done very well there, but if this club truly wants to go from the very good to elite, both in terms of perception and output, Guardiola is their man.

Prediction: Bet the house.

The theatre of dreams has had its share of nightmares recently.
Manchester United

Of the options listed, United can boast of having the richest history and prestige that comes with its position. After all, Man U is a household name and one of the three most popular clubs worldwide. This in itself would be attractive to any available manager, and even more so when said manager could be viewed as their savior.

Ever since the retirement of legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson, United have been caught like a deer in the headlights.

Not sure of what they want to be, or who they are.

The question isn’t whether United would drop the warchest at the feet of Pep, but are they competent enough to know how to use it?

Ed Woodward has been charge of transfers since the departure of Fergie, and he has been accused by many Manchester United fans as being a pawn to the Glazer family, and prioritizing the club's financial success over its performance on the pitch. Many of the players signed have turned out to be busts, while the three or four superstars he has attempted to bring in have resulted in United coming up empty handed.

Guardiola values his cohesiveness and a hierarchy of a club that shares the same vision as his own. For all of the aura that comes with the coaches seat at Old Trafford, presently, the cons outweigh the pros.

Maybe in a different time this would've been a perfect match, but it just isn’t the right scenario for Pep at this stage of his career.

Prediction: Tempting, but City makes more sense at this time.

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