Why Pep Guardiola needs to turn down Chelsea, Arsenal and United for Man City
Bayern Munich manager looks destined for the Premier League, but needs to pick the right club. Which one is it?
After his sabbatical from football, Barcelona were powerless to stop Pep Guardiola taking over at Bayern Munich.
Now it is the German giants who have reluctantly accepted Pep’s decision to leave the club, like a sobbing boyfriend waving goodbye to his love at the train station.
Now, in search of a new challenge, Guardiola must decide which of the Premier League’s biggest clubs he wishes to join. None of them have anywhere near the same level of superiority over their domestic leagues that he has experienced in his previous two roles.
The most likely next stop on Pep's world tour appears to be Manchester, where there is the option to create a dream machine at Manchester City or the romantic call to restore a footballing colossus at United. But what of the other clubs rumoured to be interested?
The most Guardiolaesque team in the league. His tactical style depends upon players understanding each other, on choosing the correct pass by being aware of team-mates' movements. Arsenal’s most important squad members have spent the last few years playing together, which would make a huge difference to the kind of game Guardiola could play early in his reign.
Barcelona’s core of Pique, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi came through at a similar time, and Arsenal’s are doing much the same. Ozil, Sanchez and Koscielny are the stars, but Ramsey, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin and Bellerin have grown up together at the club.
Guardiola knows exactly how to use short passing and clever movement to maximise their potential – he would be a perfect fit. But there’s a giant French obstacle in the way at the Emirates and there’s little chance, and even less need for the foreseeable future, for Arsene Wenger to leave.
Chelsea are heavily linked and have tried in the past to sign Guardiola, but he has turned them down at every time of asking. Roman Abramovich reportedly offered Guardiola huge money to take over at Stamford Bridge but it wasn’t enough to stop him joining Bayern Munich.
Abramovich’s desire to recruit Guardiola is no secret, but it is another superstar manager who may have an influence on the Russian’s chances of landing his man.
The lingering, haunting presence of Mourinho at Chelsea, after Guardiola's feuds with him when he was in charge of Real Madrid, may make the general aura of Stamford Bridge less appealing.
In footballing terms, the difficulty in turning a side heavily sculpted in Mourinho’s anti-tiki taka machine into the free-flowing, fluid football dream that Guardiola strives to achieve might also be a step too far, especially considering the demands imposed upon those in charge there.
Louis Van Gaal was the first manager to give Xavi and Andres Iniesta playing time at Barcelona and set a solid foundation at the club. Frank Rijkaard expanded on it and Guardiola perfected it, but both inherited an exceptional generation of players. Manchester United are not in the same position now.
Van Gaal is attempting to rebuild the club and this has created a disjointed, imbalanced work in progress. The playing squad has talent and could be turned into winners easily enough, you’d think, but even a coach of Van Gaal’s experience has struggled.
David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Anthony Martial is a spine of players good enough to construct an excellent team around and the squad players have potential to grow. Ed Woodward will be desperate for his big money signings to justify their price tags – Memphis Depay in particular has been below underwhelming.
Under Guardiola’s coaching, David Alaba has become one of the best defenders/midfielders in Europe and Pep’s ability to get the most out of short passing players like Thiago Alcantara would be invaluable in developing talents like Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin. The money available at Old Trafford also makes recruiting fairly easy, if Ed Woodward gets his lines right in negotiations.
Importantly, Wayne Rooney’s career would very likely be extended by Guardiola’s vision. The England player of the season would likely be turned into some sort of inverted regista half-back play-making goalkeeper creation.
Rooney’s marketability is something that must be kept in mind – his value to United off the pitch is arguably worth more to United than on it (certainly on present form) - but this is just one of a number of problems a Manchester United manager who isn’t Alex Ferguson must solve. The potential for failure is high.
And that is what makes Manchester City by far and away the most attractive proposition for Pep. Txiki Beguiristain is Director of Football at the Etihad, and knows exactly how to get the best out of Guardiola having worked with him during the Barcelona glory years.
City have also focused on developing a community-based club, trying to create an identity and build a sense of togetherness in the area. Guardiola fed off a similar vibe in Barcelona and even utilised it in team-talks to inspire his players.
United have gone down a road of commercialism where corporate sponsors are king and even Adidas can have a say in their style of play. Manchester United 2.0 just doesn’t quite fit the Guardiola brand.
The players he will have at his disposal make a massive difference. With Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and David Silva, Guardiola already has some of the best attacking talent in the world. The expensively-assembled defence is less impressive, but still has the potential to become a solid base for the club.
The Premier League has chewed up and spat out a few special ones in its time, but Guardiola has never been one to stick around anyway. It might suit him perfectly.