Tuesday 24 October 2017

Manchester City believe Pep Guardiola will stay to build a dynasty

Pep Guardiola. Photo: Reuters
Pep Guardiola. Photo: Reuters

Ian Herbert

Manchester City believe that Pep Guardiola will find their club a more natural home than either Barcelona or Bayern Munich and that it may be the place where he builds his first managerial dynasty by staying for longer than four years.

It is understood that Guardiola does not believe there is a need to rip up the City squad, despite a chronic domestic underperformance which has seen them collect 36 points from the last possible 75 and left the club fighting to maintain Champions League status.

Juventus’ Paul Pogba, Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan, Toni Kroos of Real Madrid and Everton pair Ross Barkley and John Stones are possible transfer targets this summer. The central defensive requirement comes despite City’s determination to give Vincent Kompany another season to fight off injury problems and also to blood his 20-year-old Belgian compatriot Jason Denayer, whom they will recall from loan at Galatasaray.

The potential for squad strengthening has also been enhanced, according to senior sources, by a marked number of players contacting City through their agents since it was announced last month that Guardiola would be the next manager to state: “We want to play for Pep.”

But City’s confidence that Guardiola will find the Etihad his natural domain is based on the environment they have promised him, rather than the potential to buy players. City can assure him that he will not encounter the internal politics which led him to leave Barcelona in 2012, after four years at the helm. Neither would they sanction one of his most coveted players being sold against his wishes, which Bayern did when insisting  that Kroos be sold to Real two years ago.

Bayern can be a difficult club for a non-German to run, but the 45-year-old will find a Catalan enclave in east Manchester.

He has already worked with City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, and chief executive, Ferran Soriano, at Barcelona and their football philosophy – possession, playing in their opponents’ half and exploiting width – coheres with his own.

Sources at the top of the club believe that the biggest challenge Guardiola will face is the colossal difficulty of the Premier League itself – a competition which now dwarfs the Champions League and any other continental version, with every opponent equipped with players from the ranks of the world’s top 200 players.

City’s Abu Dhabi owners knew from their first months at the helm, in 2008, what the size of the challenge from clubs outside the so-called top four entailed. Chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak also has vivid memories of the trip to Stoke City in the depths of winter in 2009 when the home side were reduced to 10 men in the first half but still beat City 1-0.

Yet even the owners did not fully appreciate how the vast broadcasting revenues would create such equilibrium between sides, manifest in Leicester City’s title charge this season.

Such is the level of competition, City believe that it will now take more than a good transfer acquisition system to win the Premier League and are looking for other competitive advantages.

Guardiola’s appeal to transfer targets who may otherwise settle for a less gruelling weekly environment in La Liga or the Bundesliga is seen as one.

City may seize on the interest in the elite player community which Guardiola’s arrival is generating, though it is understood that no player from Barça has been in contact and no one from that club is on their list of transfer targets.

If Guardiola’s stay in Manchester is limited to the three years of his contract, Patrick Vieira would be considered as the perfect candidate to take over if he can prove himself in the intervening period at New York City, City’s sister club.

Vieira’s side lost for the first time this season in the MLS on Friday, beaten 1-0 at home by Orlando, meaning they have a win, a loss and a defeat from their opening three games.

Independent News Service

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