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Where will Pep Guardiola pop up in Premier League?

By Mark Ogden

Published 17/12/2015

Wanted by everyone: Pep Guardiola
Wanted by everyone: Pep Guardiola

While one of the two great supercoaches of modern football prepares to be ushered out of the Premier League, the other is finally ready to arrive.

Pep Guardiola will not renew his contract at Bayern Munich, releasing him to join whichever English club can make him the best offer to start next summer.

By that point, Jose Mourinho will surely no longer be in charge at Chelsea. It is unlikely that English football will see the great Jose v Pep battle which defined the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid between 2010 and 2012.

But for a league which has lost some of its celebrity lustre in recent years, the likely arrival of Guardiola will provide an injection of glamour, as well as his obvious managerial brilliance, to a league in need of it.

After the losses of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez, and the failure to sign Neymar, Paul Pogba or James Rodriguez, this will be an important moment.

Ever since Guardiola's Barcelona team set new standards for attacking quality, winning the 2009 and 2011 Champions Leagues, he has been in great demand in the English game.

When Guardiola quit Barcelona in summer 2012, after four draining years, England's biggest clubs moved quickly to try to secure him.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had long seen Guardiola as his dream coach, and the two men met in Paris to discuss the Chelsea job.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, at the start of his final year at Old Trafford, flew out to New York, where Guardiola was taking a sabbatical, to discuss the possibility of the Catalan replacing him at Old Trafford.

Manchester City went even further than those two, restructuring their whole club in an attempt to lure Guardiola.

City appointed former Barcelona executives Ferran Sorriano and Txiki Begiristain in autumn 2012 as chief executive and director of football respectively.

These were the men who gave Guardiola the Barcelona job, over Mourinho, in the summer of 2008, starting his remarkable career.

Yet, despite all of this interest, Guardiola decided in October 2012 to go to Bayern Munich.

He took over Jupp Heynckes' treble-winning side, teaching them to play his own intense, inventive, expansive game. He has turned a consistently good team into a usually brilliant one, capable of playing some of the best football seen in the modern era.

What he has not done, though, is win another Champions League.

Bayern were blown away by Real Madrid in the semi-final second leg in 2014 and were then taken apart by the genius of Lionel Messi in the semi-final of 2015. Until Guardiola wins another Champions League he cannot be said to have been a complete success in Germany.

There had been some hope in Munich that Guardiola would stay on for another season to try to complete that task, but he has decided this month that his future lies in England.

City are still the comfortable favourites to appoint Guardiola, having worked so hard for so long to sign him.

They are confident in private that there case has been persuasive, having been made by Begiristain and Soriano to Guardiola.

City have been improving their stadium, training ground, youth set-up and squad to bring them to the level of a top European club, based on everything Begiristain and Soriano did at Barcelona.

They hope that all the structures are now in place so that Guardiola could move in smoothly and start taking City's football to the next level.

If there is one thing that City have missed since their Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 it is an elite manager.

Roberto Mancini strengthened the side, Manuel Pellegrini improved their attacking style, but there is still a softness, a lack of relentlessness, which they believed would be solved by Guardiola.

Pellegrini's three-year tenure would finish at the end of this season.

While City are confident, Manchester United are still considering in private the costs and implications of recruiting Guardiola.

The more doubt there is over Louis Van Gaal's future, the more attractive Guardiola becomes as an alternative for next season. There has been exploratory contact but United may well have left it too late.

Guardiola, though, is thought be receptive to the possibility of managing at Old Trafford.

He has always been an admirer of Europe's most historic and romantic sides, and said while watching a game at Old Trafford in 2011 that he could see himself taking charge of United.

He was even discussing whether the job might come up at recent coaching conferences.

While Chelsea is not a plausible destination for Guardiola this time, Arsenal is a more intriguing case.

In many ways the club is perfectly set up for Guardiola, with their excellent stadium, facilities and youth system, and their relative lack of pressure and internal politics. London would be an attractive place to live.

But Arsene Wenger will have one more year left on his contract this year and it is extremely difficult to see him stepping aside, or being asked to, to make room for Guardiola this summer.

All of which means that the Etihad Stadium is very much the likeliest destination for the most in-demand manager in the game.

His arrival there would end years of waiting and expectation, not just for Manchester City, but for all of English football.

Belfast Telegraph

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