Why Guardiola Won't Go To Chelsea
If one was an Italian manager of a club with designs on Champions League, match day 3 proved no less than a debacle. With the exception of Carlo Ancelotti’s Paris St. Germain side, who won their tricky away fixture against Dinamo Zagreb 0:2, it was a match day his compatriots Roberto Di Matteo, Roberto Mancini and Massimo Allegri would rather like to forget. In all three instances the teams lost to the home side. Chelsea were defeated 2:1 in Donetsk, Malaga prevailed over AC Milan (1:0) while Manchester City embarrassed themselves in Amsterdam, losing 3:1.
Whether he cares to admit or not, one man will surely have followed the latest developments in the Champions League as they could very well determine his next destination in Europe, Pep Guardiola. The Barcelona legend who, well, brought glory back to…Barcelona (where else?), is, and has been, football’s most in-demand manager. During his four-year reign Barcelona won 14 out of 19 possible titles. Not only did he guide Barcelona to a plethora of titles, he also brought sexy back. His team also displayed some of the most spectacular football along the way to the summit of the European game.
Nevertheless, the last four years have taken a toll on Pep Guardiola (most notably his head, his hair is all but gone) and he’s currently enjoying a self-imposed sabbatical from the beautiful game, in New York. Even though he failed to repeat to achieve a continental double (domestic league plus Champions League) in his last season at Barcelona, his stock and reputation remain sky-high and untarnished.
According to various media outlets he’s on a very, very short list of candidates to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, if the wily Scot ever decides to retire. Actually there are supposedly only two names on that ominous list: Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho. That’s about as much as one needs to know about the regard in which the Barcelona legend is being held. With the exception of two destinations, Real Madrid, due to…well, Pep Guardiola is about as Barcelona as it gets, and Manchester United, nobody but Sir Alex Ferguson dictates the terms of his retirement, he can practically cherry pick his next job in football. Unfortunately, there are no vacancies at the most prestigious addresses at present, which brings us to the aforementioned three Italians. At one point or another Pep Guardiola has been linked to AC Milan, Chelsea and Manchester City.
AC Milan’s Massimo Allegri has (when I wrote this he still had a job) been tasked with one of the most unthankful assignments in European football: rebuilding the Italian side with next to no funds (after removing the majority of high-earners and performers over the summer) and pleasing the ever erratic owner, Silvio Berlusconi, and his unrealistic demands. At present the Italian giant is struggling, and understandably so. Over the past decade or so the core of the once great Milan side had been more or less the same. However, Milan’s players did age but their wages remained high. In light of Uefa’s Financial Fair play something had to give. Though removing Seedorf & Co. has streamlined the wage bill, it made the Italians less competitive, even if the veterans were past their best. That’s what happens when a side is not regularly rejuvenated with fresh talent, it’s what could’ve happened to Chelsea had Roman Abramovich not sanctioned another spending spree over the summer. Either way, Massimo Allegri is probably the first candidate to make way of the Italian trio. The likelihood of Pep Guardiola replacing Allegri, however, is thin at best. Should Guardiola really decide to stay put until the summer of 2013, this is not going to happen anytime soon. Especially since AC Milan cannot guarantee (any) significant transfer funds to back Guardiola. He may be a football romantic but Guardiola has a rather expensive taste. Too expensive for Italians, maybe?
Due to Chelsea’s firm hold at the summit of the Premier League, and playing some nice football for some change at times, Roberto Di Matteo’s job is safe for the time being. Not to mention, he still has some credit left after delivering two titles in the previous season. The Italian manager succeeded where his more illustrious predecessors failed in the past – he won an unlikely Champions League trophy, the one piece of silverware owner Roman Abramovich had been craving for years. However, it’s kind of telling that the man who has made Chelsea the first London-side to win the Champions League was only awarded a two-year contract for his stellar accomplishments. One cannot shake off the feeling that Di Matteo is not Abramovich’s first choice. At any rate, under the notoriously fickle owner nobody really is safe, least his managers. Jose Mourinho was fired after establishing Chelsea as a Premier League heavyweight, winning all English titles within a three year span, while Carlo Ancelotti was given the boot after masterminding the first double in their history in the preceding season. Roman Abramovich is quite trigger-happy in that regard. As long as Chelsea manage to qualify for the knock-out stages and not relish their standing in the league, Di Matteo is safe.
Further up north in England, in the blue side of Manchester, another Roberto - Mancini, that is - failed once more to prove that he is not incapable of succeeding in the Champions League. After three match days of Champions League football Manchester City have accumulated a grand total of one point and sit at the bottom of Group D. To give you an idea how embarrassing this is, the Ajax Amsterdam side that defeated Manchester City cost a little more than 4,000,000 Euro and featured no less than seven academy players. In stark contrast, the price tag of Manchester City’s starting XI is more than 200,000,000 Euro. Even the ‘cheapest’ Manchester City acquisition, Vincent Kompany, at 8,500,000 Euro, dwarfs Ajax Amsterdam’s total outlay for signings. No matter how you slice it, it’s embarrassing. Roberto Mancini got away with exiting the Champions League in 2011/12 due to inexperience and the bad luck of the draw, last season’s group of death.
However, these excuses never sat well with observers. For one, their key players such as Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, David Silva or Carlos Tevez have already played in the Champions League (Toure and Tevez even won it), and two, Manchester City had/have depth in quality, virtually every player is an international. In ten years of top level management the best, the absolute maximum Roberto Mancini has ever accomplished in the Champions League were back-to-back appearances in the quarter finals, way back in 2004/05 and 2005/06 with Inter Milan. Hardly the credentials associated with a manager of the highest caliber – which he is not. Sheik Mansour should face the music and cut his losses after rewarding Roberto Mancini with an ill-advised contract extension until the summer of 2017. Mancini will lead Manchester City anywhere but to European glory.
The most attactive destinations for Pep Guardiola are Chelsea and Manchester City, probably Bayern Munich too. But the Bundesliga behemoths are adamant about their manager speaking proper German which rules him out of contention for the time being. Between Chelsea and Manchester City, the latter present the better overall package in terms of players, financial muscle and influence. Pep Guardiola may be quiet, reserved even, but make no mistake he definitely wants to be assured that he is boss. At Chelsea nobody is boss but Roman Abramovich, who has been known to come into the locker room and give the odd speech here and there - unthinkable under the management of Pep Guardiola. An owner in the mold of Sheik Mansour is probably more to the liking of Pep Guardiola. He’s probably also what Manchester City need. Though Guardiola clearly likes the idea of promoting academy players, something Roberto Mancini is also not known for in addition to his continental ineptitude, he would still have the financial backing to purse the odd marquee signing every (other) summer. What makes a Guardiola-managed City even more likely is that ex-Barcelona board member, Ferran Soriano, was recently appointed CEO of the Manchester side while just last week former Barcelona director of football Txiki Begiristain joined City under the same title. Begiristain formed a remarkably successful relationship with Guardiola and his appointment many believe has laid the platform for Guardiola to join.
Whatever the future holds for Pep Guardiola, unlike any of these fine gentlemen, nobody’s breathing down his neck and he is definitely going to have a top job, next summer at the latest.
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