It was the worst kept secret in football, but now the news we all expected has been confirmed – albeit a little earlier than most would have thought. Pep Guardiola will be the new face at Manchester City: the man tasked with making serious headway in Europe, and perhaps the biggest of big names that City’s owners have craved since they purchased the club.
Ever since the Spaniard announced he would be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the current season, and with his subsequent announcement that he would be heading to the Premier League, Manchester always looked a likely destination. While pressure and speculation refuse to recede on Louis van Gaal across the city at United, their ‘noisy neighbours’, as Sir Alex Ferguson once famously remarked, now have their superstar in the dugout.
However, amidst all the hype and attention on Manchester City’s attempt to add silverware this season, and with their best chance yet of progressing in the Champions League knockout stages, this announcement is not only premature, but represents a bold call by those at the Etihad Stadium.
City are in the hunt for the quadruple and while this is a long shot, an announcement – no matter how predictable it was – could have been delayed until the end of the season. The hierarchy claimed they consulted current manager Manuel Pellegrini, and yet this decision fails to take into account the potentially destabilising ramifications: detracting focus from City’s endeavours on the pitch to those off it.
Furthermore, Pellegrini himself must not be forgotten. He has the highest win percentage of any manager in the Premier League era, second only to the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’: Jose Mourinho. When he was at Real Madrid, Pellegrini was not seen as a big name, but quietly went about his business and was harshly pushed by a notoriously impatient board. It is a similar tale at Manchester City where the Chilean, admittedly armed with ample resources, guided the blue half of Manchester to a double in his first season in charge. He has conducted himself with the upmost professionalism, both before and after this seemingly inevitable announcement.
The conduct of those charged with the decision has to be questioned. Undoubtedly bursting with excitement at the prospect of one of the game’s brightest young managers arriving, they sacrificed any sort of reasonable conduct towards their current one. They handled the situation incredibly poorly and have, in truth, treated Pellegrini rather shoddily. The reaction by members of the squad only points to the level of trust and respect they have for the 62-year-old, which might be met with a renewed focus and desire to send Pellegrini out on a high. That said, Pellegrini can consider himself unlucky. It was not a surprise and, deep down, even he would have been resigned to his fate long before the announcement.
Guardiola comes equipped with all the traits and an excellent track record, but if he is to succeed in the Premier League he needs to elevate City to a level they have not yet reached.
City believe this achievement is one almighty coup, given Chelsea’s current vacancy and the never-ending circus involving van Gaal. It is clear that they view this as a natural progression: they have the man they have sought ever since Roberto Mancini’s departure, the man whom they most likely had on speed dial just in case, the man continuously linked to the well-documented Barcelona connection on City’s board.
Pep is finally in place, but spare a thought for the man he will pass on the way in. Guardiola has big boots to fill.
Image courtesy of Thomas Rodenbcher.