The end of an era has arrived at Barcelona with Pep Guardiola announcing that he will step down as manager at the end of the season.
There are many things that we’ll miss about him, his willingness to play possession based passing football that can look like a sophisticated dance routine, the way he rocks a shirt and v-neck jumper combo, the way he stands as a model for what balding men could look like given the right complexion and cheekbone structure, his almost faultless record against Mourinho’s Madrid which has caused Jose no end of comedic frustration, his drive to improve the way that Barcelona play and not sit back on his laurels. Not least the ability to recognise when his work is done and it is time to move on.
But what next for the Pep?
Guardiola has always said that when he leaves Barcelona he would rest and take time out of the game, recharge his batteries and think about how to step it up a level again. In all honesty that would be the most sensible option for him. But speculation in the Premier League around Pep’s destination is going to be huge and is certainly going to be a distraction for everyone throughout the summer. What makes it worse is the distinct possibility that Jose Mourinho will also leave Real Madrid. We’re going to have months of pure speculation, interrupted only by the Euros and the Olympics.
Manchester United could see Guardiola as the long-term successor to Alex Ferguson. Would his availability prompt Sir Alex to stand down earlier than expected, knowing there was someone of sufficient calibre there to take over. Mancini at Manchester City looks to be in trouble, even if they manage to overcome Manchester United and win the league. Guardiola is the kind of manager that City’s Dubai backers would love to have at the helm. As with Manchester United, would Arsenal and Arsene Wenger consider Guardiola’s availability an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up, with Wenger moving upstairs. Chelsea are also on the lookout for a permanent manager, though Roberto di Matteo is making good work of his extended job interview there. Spurs may yet lose Redknapp to the English FA, in fact given the team’s current level of performance, some have said that they’d quite like to lose him especially if Guardiola could be tempted to White Hart Lane. Even Liverpool may consider putting King Kenny out to pasture if Guardiola could be brought on board (though given Guardiola’s record with tall strikers such as Ibrahimovic I can’t see him taking to Andy Carroll).
We shouldn’t be forgetting the numerous Italian clubs who will be clamouring for his signature, maybe even Bayern Munich. Pep will have all the top European clubs (except Real Madrid) either asking flat out for him to join them or at the least asking surreptitiously if, y’know, maybe he’d like to ‘have a chat’ about his future with them. Guardiola’s next job could be whatever he wanted, and we shouldn’t forget he said he loved his time at Brescia…
Or perhaps Pep will lie on the beach for a bit, read Jonathan Wilson’s ‘Inverting the Pyramid’, have a bit of a think and come back to Barcelona once Tito Vilanova gets tired of the job.