Pep Guardiola to Chelsea was always a stretch. Why would a manager who thrived on continuity at Barcelona risk his reputation at a club that hosts a revolution whenever a billionaire Russian feels like it?
As ever with Chelsea, Roman Abramovich's buying power justifies the speculation, but why are we to assume money is even a factor in Guardiola's decision-making?
Not everybody can be bought.
Guardiola has already passed up a year's earnings to spend a sabbatical in New York. He needed to "rest", he told reporters in May, after walking away from Barcelona—hardly the sentiment you'd marry to somebody motivated by money.
But, still, Abramovich thinks his wallet will win out. According to the Daily Mail, Chelsea made a second failed approach in October for Guardiola.
The same paper claimed Guardiola cited Chelsea as his "dream job" in early November—adding that he loved the way Roberto Di Matteo set them up this season and is a big fan of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata (Matazar for the initiated).
Then came the Di Matteo sacking. Abramovich hired his ninth manager in Rafa Benitez and opened the revolving trap door to a man who six months earlier had led Chelsea to their greatest triumph.
Chelsea fans rounded on their owner and their new manager on Sunday—booing both with equal ferocity. Meanwhile, their team tightened up to play out a dull 0-0 draw with Manchester City and are in danger of becoming the first holders to go out of the Champions League in the group stages.
Suddenly, the Guardiola to Chelsea rumours began to look a little less viable.
None too surprisingly, the Daily Mail turned faster than Hazard on the story. Here's what they have a source saying in Monday's report:
He’ll (Guardiola) listen to what anyone has to say but at this stage as far as English clubs are concerned, he’s more impressed with the stability shown by both Manchester clubs than anything he’s seen at Chelsea.
So maybe Chelsea wasn't his "dream job" after all? What an earth-shattering surprise.
Of the Manchester clubs, United are the better fit—not just because of their history and the level of trust they've afforded Ferguson in his 26 years, but because their ethos is closer to that of Barca.
Barca are a football family. During Sunday's 4-0 win against Levante, they had 11 homegrown players on the pitch at the same time (Pitchside Europe). Chelsea could claim just Ryan Bertrand in the squad of 16 who drew with Manchester City. City were without Micah Richards, their only homegrown player.
In that sense, United—though the club is not quite the production line it was in the early 1990s—much more closely resembles the environment in which Guardiola made history with Barca.
But it goes beyond youth development and choosing owners with a long-term vision. If you're going to make a comeback, make a big one—and what's bigger than taking over from the great Sir Alex Ferguson, and at a club with a romantic vision to fit Guardiola's footballing philosophy.
Guardiola has already turned down Chelsea's money. Turning down Ferguson's legacy would be far harder.