Juve Links Highlights Pep’s Mortality at City

March 15, 2019

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There was a certain inevitability that Pep Guardiola would one day pitch up at Manchester City. Even before the Catalan’s appointment in the summer of 2016, the Abu Dhabi-owned club prepared the ground for his arrival, hiring many of his former Barcelona colleagues to executive positions while underlining the importance of youth and attractive football.

Equally, though, there is an inevitability that Guardiola’s time at City will, in the grand scheme of things, be fleeting. The pattern of the 48-year-old’s coaching career to date is well established, leaving Barcelona on his own terms after four seasons and Bayern Munich after just three. Like all good frontmen, Guardiola always leaves his fans wanting more.

It’s therefore unsurprising that after close to three seasons in charge at the Etihad Stadium rumours are now starting to surface over where Guardiola could choose to take his career next. Last week, for instance, there were reports in Italy that the Catalan coach had already agreed to join Juventus at the end of the season.

Those reports were denied by Guardiola, but in refuting such suggestions he reminded us all of his footballing mortality at Manchester City. The former midfielder has a contract until 2021, signing a contract extension last May to keep him for two more seasons than was originally agreed. But beyond that, it might be unreasonable to expect Guardiola to stay any longer.

A five-year stint at Man City would be the longest Guardiola has stayed at any one club to date. His methods depend on renewal, not of ideas necessarily, but of environment, and by 2021 Guardiola may well feel the need for change. It’s for this reason that City must show some foresight by planning for the exit of their manager now.

Some may see that as a waste of time given the likelihood that Guardiola, always one for honouring contracts, will stay for two more seasons after this one. But such has been the impact made by the former Barca and Bayern coach at the Etihad Stadium a coherent succession plan is required to ensure there is no plunge off the cliff edge when he leaves.

Across the city, Manchester United showed the dangers of not having a succession plan in place to ease the blow of a legendary manager’s exit. Of course, Guardiola hasn’t even been in English football for three full seasons, while Sir Alex Ferguson was at Old Trafford for the best part of three decades, but City are, as things stand, a reflection of their Catalan coach just as much as United were of the Scot.

Two years is a long time in football and so City could find that many of the candidates they identify as potential Guardiola replacements fall by the wayside by the time an appointment is required. Last year, for instance, Domenico Tedesco might have been a name mentioned, guiding Schalke to a second place finish in the Bundesliga at just 33 years old. Now, however, he is out of a job, sacked after City put seven goals past Schalke in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 second leg.

City’s shortlist must be a dynamic one, though, not a static one. The Etihad Stadium outfit has one of the best recruitment departments in all of European football and so they’ll be well versed in how to hedge bets with future moves in mind. The other option, of course, would be to line up Mikel Arteta as Guardiola’s successor, although appointing someone so inexperienced to such a high profile role would be something of a gamble.

There’s good reason to believe City are already thinking ahead to a time without Guardiola. The Amazon Prime documentary series that shone a light behind the scenes at the Etihad Stadium illustrated a club and executive committee willing to plan in advance, with one scene in particular showing Txiki Begiristain and staff identifying potential transfer targets to cover injuries that hadn’t even happened yet.

They will have taken note of the comments made by Guardiola regarding his future. City fans might not want to hear it, particularly with their team still on course for an historic Quadruple, but it’s the job of people like Begiristain to plot the course to deal with such things. The plotting must start now.

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Author: Graham Ruthven

Graham Ruthven is a football writer and broadcaster based in Glasgow, Scotland. He was written for the New York Times, the Guardian, Eurosport, Bleacher Report, Four Four Two, The Scotsman and others. He is also a football shirt aficionado and still maintains to this day that Dennis Bergkamp didn’t mean it

Twitter @grahamruthven

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