Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and even Manchester United. And let’s not discount Liverpool, who may soon tire of the latest attempt to recreate the now fading glory days of Anfield.
These are the clubs that may soon be initiating an open outcry session of bidding for the services of Pep Guardiola, who right now may be enjoying the US election but may soon be setting up home in the UK.
The current under-fire manager who can see Guardiola’s stubbly chin in his shaving mirror is Roberto Mancini. City have had, by their very recent standards, had a lack-lustre start to the season. They’re unbeaten in the league, true, but their European performances have failed to convince City’s impatient owners. City were unfortunate to get drawn in the same group as Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, but they’ve even found a developing – and admittedly, second-tier – Ajax hard going.
Mancini hasn’t endeared himself to the media, thanks to a series of prickly post-match interviews, and his record is good, but he won’t be taking City to the next level this season, unless something dramatic happens. Mancini took over at City in 2009. Since then he’s won the FA Cup and Premier, his two full seasons with the club. The owners probably expect the Champions League soon, but that’s unrealistic. If they go out of this season’s competition at the first hurdle – and all the indicators are this will happen – then Guardiola could be next – leaving the Italian to take over one of the many jobs he supposedly gets offered annually.
If it’s not City, then Roberto Di Matteo may soon feel the warm breath of Santpedor’s favourite son on his neck. It’s a fair bet that Chelsea will not win the Champions League this season, and Roman Abramovich is waiting for the slip-up that will allow him to dispense with the services of the most celebrated caretaker in history. Chelsea are still going well, although doubts have surfaced following disappointment against Shakhtar, United and Swansea. The Capital One Cup won’t be enough for Roman and if that’s all RDM looks like bringing home, then Roman will “Pep” up his club in the New Year’s honours.
And then there’s dear old Arsene Wenger, still playing the purist at the Emirates, but rapidly running out of time. Arsenal are not the sort of club to make hasty decisions, and Wenger is the kind of manager any big club would want. But does he have the purse? There’s been reports that Arsenal are “two years away from domination”, a story that’s been played for years. Sooner or later, Wenger’s luck will run out and Arsenal may look for the headline-stealing signing that can change their direction. Whatever happens, Wenger deserves to be treated with respect.
Over at Old Trafford, Fergie is clinging (comfortably) onto his dugout and there’s no sign of the old boy declining in terms of his drive and ability. As the game’s elder statesman, though, he can’t go on for ever. Moreover, he will want to go out on a high – not like Brian Clough, who wept into retirement taking his beloved Forest down. That’s not going to happen, but if Fergie goes soon, Guardiola is bound to be top of the list.
So, City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool. Which one will it be? Until he gets a job, every major European role will feature his name among the potential applicants. But he won’t have to apply…