When Pep Guardiola announced that, after four years and 14 trophies, he would be leaving Barcelona as coach at the end of the 2012/13 season, many people in England assumed that the Premier League would be his next destination.
The former Spain international spent his sabbatical year learning the language in New York, while there was also a perception that the English top flight was simply the next logical step for a man who had established himself as one of the world’s best coaches.
Instead, he chose Bayern Munich. A deal was announced in January 2013, with the club going on to win back-to-back Bundesliga crowns under his guidance. A third in succession already is looking likely; Bayern have a five-point lead at the top of the table after an unbeaten start to the season that has included 11 victories from 12 matches played.
Guardiola’s contract at the Allianz Arena expires in June and, while recent reports allege that he has been offered a lucrative contract extension, there remains a very real possibility that he will leave German football.
According to Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, a decision will be made during the winter break, with the manager’s agent acknowledging this week that “not even I know what Pep is up to … he is very peculiar when it comes to these things”.
Although the same supposition proved to be inaccurate three years ago, it has been widely posited, again, that Guardiola’s next job will be in the Premier League.
If that proves to be the case, Manchester City seems like the obvious choice.
Txiki Begiristain, the club’s director of football, worked with Guardiola at Barcelona, while City have invested heavily in youth development and gained a reputation for attractive, attack-minded football.
Manuel Pellegrini, City’s manager at the moment, would also be relatively easy for the club’s hierarchy to dismiss, even if he wins a second league title this term.
Across town, many Manchester United fans would love Guardiola as their next manager.
The history of the 20-time English champions would be attractive to the Catalan, though it is unclear whether the Glazer family would be willing to get rid of Louis van Gaal a year early if Guardiola became available in the summer.
Chelsea may be in need of a new coach, given their recent struggles under Jose Mourinho, but it is difficult to see Guardiola taking over a team moulded by his arch enemy and ideological opposite.
Although Arsenal looks a more natural fit, the north Londoners will not be on the lookout for another manager until Arsene Wenger decides that he is ready to call it a day.
Elsewhere, Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain may be appealing, though Guardiola is likely to be interested in a more challenging domestic environment after strolling to the Bundesliga title with relative ease in his time with Bayern.
In Italy, AC Milan and Inter Milan still look a considerable distance away from challenging the European elite.
The clubs with 10 Uefa Champions League trophies between them not only failed to qualify for that competition, they were unable to finish high enough in Seria A to make the Europa League. Current champions Juventus probably lack the spending power that he has been able to call upon at Barcelona and Munich.
Guardiola may yet opt to remain with Bayern for a further year, or take another 12 months off to recharge his batteries.
The former midfielder is known to be an intense operator, someone who is obsessive in his pursuit of perfection.
It is why he insisted on rolling, one-year contracts at Barcelona and the reason he said recently that he could never remain in one place for as long as Wenger has at Arsenal.
When Guardiola decides the time is right to open another period of employment, it seems certain several clubs will be interested in his signature.
At this stage, given the number of options, you would think the Premier League looks the most likely destination this time around.
As the competition for silverware gathers pace in the new year, the race for Guardiola could be just as intriguing to follow.
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