Pep Guardiola will not take the Roman shilling. It’s clear that the former Barcelona coach continues to refuse any offer to become the latest man to walk on hot coals at Stamford Bridge – and I think he will never take the plunge. Why?, you may ask. But why would he?
Chelsea have been through a veritable A to Z of European football’s most-wanted. They let the world’s best manager, Jose Mourinho, slip through their grasp and they’ve been trying to recreate that era ever since.
No football manager’s job is long term, unless you happen to be Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. These chaps manage stable, patient clubs that are dynastic in their approach to life. Chelsea crave that sort of credibility, but they won’t achieve it by playing musical dugouts. Manchester City may go the same way, although let’s be frank, in the time Roberto Mancini has been at the Etihad, Chelsea have been through four managers. City’s nerve will be tested in the coming weeks.
Liverpool fans say Chelsea have no history. They do. It’s been made over the past decade, but what Chelsea have failed to achieve over this period of time is the sort of respect that people have for the equally successful United and the idealistic Arsenal. They have been seen as noisy arrivistes, artificially boosted by football’s own version of quantitative easing. City are in the same mould and equally unpopular. Leeds United, thanks to their Middle Eastern injection, will be next, mark my words.
Even the way Chelsea dispose of their managers leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Roberto Di Matteo flies back and in the wee small hours is taken aside and sacked – not by the owner, but by his close aides, and at the [presumably deserted] training ground. All very John Le Carre.
It’s this drastic short-termism that will surely deter Guardiola from taking on a job that may damage his long-term career prospects. He could go anywhere and his last port of call was Barca. He may not want the wild west saloon that Stamford Bridge has become.
Mourinho is more suited to Chelsea. He has strong survival instincts and he is the Iberian equivalent of the late and great Brian Clough. But he is unpredictable and courts disaster occasionally. He’s also supremely talent and savvy. That’s why he and Chelsea fit nicely together. He would also suit Manchester City. But would City’s neighbours, United, take a chance on Mourinho – or Arsenal? I don’t think so. They are both very conservative institutions and they may not want to risk having a character like Mourinho. There’s not many Bridge regulars, however, who would not welcome back an older and wiser Mourinho.
So why Chelsea or City? Both clubs are trying to “buy” the success and respect of their peers. They need constant quick fixes to bring success. The early Abramovich years saw them lay the foundations for the sort of generational platform that United created years ago. Between 2004-05 and 2007, Chelsea were arguably the most consistent team in Europe and there were justifiable reasons for believing that, at last, Chelsea were on the brink of building something long-term. When Mourinho left, that all changed.
Last season’s FA Cup and Champions League double was a case of “doing a job” on Europe. It worked and it was great for the club, but you got the feeling that nobody saw it as anything more than living for the moment. This season’s Champions League campaign underlines that – the Blues have worn the “Champions of Europe” crown very uncomfortably.
Unless Chelsea can convince Guardiola that this time the objective is to build something long-term, he may look elsewhere. And with World Cup 2014 approaching, he will have no shortage of offers. Winning with style isn’t just how you play – it’s also about how you operate off the field.