International options for Pep Guardiola as Catalan ponders life after Manchester City

Scramble will soon begin for a coach that has always had an intellectual curiosity about other countries and ideas

Pep Guardiola’s impending availability can prompt a scramble for his services. During his sabbatical after leaving Barcelona, Alex Ferguson had dinner with him in New York to try to sell Manchester United to him. Roman Abramovich tried to lure him to Chelsea. Manchester City, as Manuel Pellegrini has admitted, would have preferred Guardiola to him. Guardiola plumped for Bayern Munich.

Now his declaration that he will leave City in 2023 and, after a break, wants an international job next will put plenty on notice. His friend and former teammate Luis Enrique is currently the Spain manager, though if Guardiola is looking for a position after Euro 2024, he may no longer be.

But his relationship with his homeland is complicated, as a man with pride in his Catalan roots, and while Spain produces more Guardiola-style footballers than anywhere else, he has always had an intellectual curiosity about other countries and ideas.

Perhaps that would rule out England and Germany, though both would have the budget and calibre of player to interest him and to give him a chance of winning a major tournament.

Gareth Southgate may have two tournaments left; Guardiola would offer a very different successor. That France produces more talent than anywhere else would make them a fascinating prospect for him. An admirer of Arrigo Sacchi has long been intrigued by Italian football though Roberto Mancini has a trophy to his name and a contract to 2026. But Guardiola’s greatest influence was Dutch, with Johan Cruyff exporting a host of ideas to Barcelona, so perhaps his career could come full circle if he took helm of the Oranje.

Not that the options are confined to Europe. Guardiola could get lucrative offers from around the planet. With the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada, the two Concacaf superpowers may be tempted.

Another continent appeals to him. “To play a Copa America, I want to have this experience,” Guardiola told ESPN Brazil. He then added: “I believe that the coach of the Brazilian team will always be Brazilian.” Yet Brazil and Argentina, with their history, identity and gifted players, would have obvious appeal.

City, meanwhile, have the best part of two years to determine how to replace the irreplaceable. There is no duplicate of Guardiola, though there are those with certain similarities. His former assistant Mikel Arteta had a wonderful schooling and would represent a continuity candidate, though Arsenal’s recent fortunes would count against him.

Five contenders to replace Guardiola at City

Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel, two of the few to have excellent records against Guardiola and who share some of his ideas about positioning and pressing, would probably be on City’s radar. The fact the Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea managers are now at clubs with high managerial turnovers mean one could yet become available by 2023. Certainly there are plenty of players at the Etihad Stadium who should suit either.

Brendan Rodgers’ passing principles have not gone unnoticed in Manchester, either, and while he has been loyal to Leicester when others have been interested, he might find City harder to turn down.

While Jurgen Klopp has long said Liverpool will remain his only English club, the success of German managers, and their high-tempo approach, could prompt City to look in the Bundesliga, even if Bayern Munich may have the wunderkind Julian Nagelsmann tied down.

It is also worth noting that Pellegrini came from La Liga, which City chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain know well. But Guardiola has represented City’s dream manager for the best part of a decade, with thoughts devoted to how to get and keep him. By 2023, they will require a new ideal.

Updated: August 27th 2021, 4:50 AM
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