Bayern Munich's signing of Pep Guardiola shuffles the pack in England
By Chris Higham
One of my favourite past-times on Twitter, Facebook or on my site at Soccer Limey in America over the past several months has been to engage in speculation about where former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola would land after his self-imposed sabbatical was over. Earlier this week, Bundesliga club Bayern Munch signed Guardiola to a 4-year contract which runs until 2016. This contract agreement is certain to send some top Barclays Premier League clubs into disarray.
A common point of discussion in England since the firing of Chelsea's Roberto Di Matteo in December has been whether billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich would try to lure Pep Guardiola to Stamford Bridge despite interim manager Rafa Benitez's success in stabilising their on-field performances.
Chelsea fans have always longed for a return to calmer managerial waters since Jose Mourinho's departure in 2007. Since then though, there has been a revolving door of eight managers that have been unsuccessful in convincing Abramovich that they were a long term solution. Guardiola was seen as the possible answer.
Further North, Roberto Mancini's position as manager at Manchester City seems to be on a knife edge as this campaign's performances have lagged behind the dominance shown early last season. With ownership at The Etihad desperate for continued success, it was starting to appear that Mancini was only a couple of bad results away from walking the same plank as Di Matteo. And again, Pep Guardiola was talked about in some circles as his possible successor.
Across London, Arsenal's inconsistency have earned manager Arsene Wenger some vitriolic criticism from the club's fans as their top players, not least of all Robin Van Persie, continue to look for trophies elsewhere. Although Wenger is the second longest serving manager in the Premiership, it certainly looked as if the hourglass was running out on him too. Guardiola's adherence to football's passing philosophy would have made the move a seamless one at The Emirates.
Personally, I have always felt that Guardiola's destination would be Old Trafford. His philosophy towards building a dynasty pointed towards the development of young players, coupled with a platform of success, would make him Sir Alex Ferguson's obvious successor. His dislike for controversy added to that suitability. Meetings between Ferguson and Guardiola in New York last year also indicated that the Spaniard was being groomed for the Old Trafford hot seat.
With Bayern Munich's announcement of Guardiola's acquisition starting next season, all of the above has changed. With Jose Mourinho restless at Real Madrid, and Chelsea fans still disillusioned with Benitez's attitude, maybe a return for "The Special One" is now on the cards. Mancini, in my view, is secure for the present time provided that Man City are still competing for the Premiership title at season's end while at Old Trafford, it remains to be seen what plans the club have for Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. Now that Guardiola is off the market, maybe Ferguson's career will continue on longer than previously thought.
Whatever happens moving forward, there's no doubt that the midnight oil will be burning brightly in the the boardrooms of the top clubs in the Barclays Premier League to determine who gets a seat once the music stops again.