Pep Guardiola to Bayern Munich: Why Did Top English Clubs Lose Out?
Bayern Munich officially announced that Pep Guardiola would take over for Jupp Heynckes this summer, putting an end to months of speculation.
The German club has thus landed one of the biggest manager signings in recent history, with Guardiola being courted by a cohort of top clubs across Europe.
With Pep’s declarations this week that he would someday like to coach in England, many believed that Albion would be his destination come next summer (via The Daily Mail).
Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and even Arsenal had been linked with Guardiola in the last few months.
They all had their particular incentives, Chelsea offered money, Manchester City offered the familiarity of long-time friend and ally Txiki Begiristain, as well as money, Manchester United offered prestige and Arsenal offered a similar footballing philosophy to Pep’s Barcelona.
But in the end, and against the odds, the Bavarian giants got the most sought-out coach on the market.
The question arises of why, having so recently declared his interest in the Premier League, Pep turned down the four British clubs at his pursuit.
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Just two weeks ago an alleged Chelsea bid for Guardiola made the headlines of sporting dailies across the world.
The Sun’s claim that Roman Abramovich had offered an unheard-of £10m-a-year contract for the Catalan manager was reproduced on front covers from Catalonia to South America, Asia, Africa and pretty much every publication reporting on the beautiful game (via The Sun).
Rafael Benitez has only been signed as a caretaker manager, and his contract expires at the end of the season, so everything seemed to indicate that the Russian billionaire’s plan was always to take Guardiola to Stamford Bridge.
Had Abramovich known the Catalan a bit better though, he would have probably known that his efforts were futile.
He should have known that money alone would never be enough to tempt Guardiola into the job. Both in his professional and personal life, Guardiola has shown that he puts his beliefs and philosophy above all else.
Chelsea managers under Abramovich have averaged eight months in charge of the Blues, and the Russian is well known for his impulsive decisions when it comes to coaches (via The Daily Mail). His latest victim was Roberto di Matteo who, just six months after bringing the European Cup to South-London for the first time in history, was given his marching orders.
There is no way Guardiola would have taken a position at a club whose trigger-happy president seems capable of sacking a manager because he woke up in a bad mood.
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Manchester United would have offered Pep Guardiola the prestige of coaching the most successful club in the history of English football. A league that itself is considered by many as the best in the world.
Few clubs can boast to have the stature and worldwide recognition that the Red Devils emanate. With Pep Guardiola recently managing a Barcelona side that was seen by experts as having its own spot in the pantheon of football’s best ever teams, the match seemed perfect.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the man responsible for taking United to the pinnacle of world football, had called Guardiola’s side the best team that he had ever faced (via Goal.com). Sir Alex's tenure at the head of Manchester United, after 27 years in charge, is seemingly edging closer to an end. The Scot's approval of his successor is clearly essential to whoever will replace him in years to come.
United could offer Guardiola the prestige of a club with a glorious history, the chance to compete in one of the best leagues in the world and a squad that includes some of the best players on the planet.
By this point it's fair to ask, why then choose Bayern over United?
There is a shockingly simple answer to that question: Guardiola was probably never offered the United job in the first place.
Guardiola had already said on numerous occasions that he would get back to work this year, and Sir Alex, in pole position to claim a 20th League title for United, doesn’t seem like he is going anywhere anytime soon.
As mouthwatering and logical it would seem for Guardiola to some day be in charge of the Red Devils, it will have to wait until the moment that Sir Alex decides he has had enough. Judging by the Scot's character and longevity, it may take a while.
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The blue side of Manchester has also been keen on getting the services of the Catalan mastermind.
Despite Roberto Mancini delivering the much-awaited Premier League title that had eluded the Citizens for over 30 years, City’s European record under the Italian’s management has been poor, to say the least.
After going out in the group stages of the two last editions of the Champions League, Guardiola was seen by millionaire owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the man that could deliver European glory.
With City’s chances of retaining the domestic title looking rather slim, it seemed like Mancini’s tenure at the club has an increasingly close expiration date.
Add to that their signing of sport director Txiki Begiristain in the summer, and City seemed just a step away from taking Guardiola to Eastlands. A long-time ally and friend at Barcelona, Begiristain was one of those responsible of maintaining Barcelona’s philosophy throughout the years.
Although no details have yet emerged as to whether City approached Guardiola or not, it seems clear that money, both in wages and transfer fees, would not have been a problem for the club’s seemingly bottomless funds.
If Guardiola considered joining City, what probably deterred him was their philosophy of high spending. The Catalan has always prioritized bringing up young players from the club’s youth system rather than the multi-million pound signings City have become known for.
Although Begiristain was probably signed with the intent of building a similar youth system in Manchester, it will take years before City can reap its fruits.
Until they shed their image of “new-rich” club, Guardiola will probably stay well away from Manchester City.
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Just last month a source close to the Catalan coach stated "Guardiola's preference in England is Arsenal," according to Goal.com.
What may at first seems like a bizarre idea, considering the Gunners’ lack of trophies over the past six years, it actually makes some sense if analysed a bit more in depth.
Arsenal have often been dubbed “the Barcelona of the Premier League” for their style of play. Under Arsène Wenger, they have prioritised slick one-touch football, as Guardiola did with his Barcelona side.
The similarities with Barcelona on the pitch were matched by those off the pitch. Financial stability and betting on young players have been a cornerstone of Wenger's vision, a philosophy Guardiola also adheres to.
There are, however, two main objections to Guardiola moving to Arsenal.
The first is their lack of ambition. It seems like the club, despite its fans' increasing weariness, is quite content with finishing in a Champions League spot rather than actually challenging for the league title or the UCL itself.
For a man that won 14 of the 19 possible trophies in his time at Barcelona, not competing for titles is absolutely out of the question.
Even in the unlikely event of Arsenal's management finding a way to give Guardiola the assurances necessary to a genuine challenge for trophies, he would have turned them down. The reason is that, as is the case for Ferguson, Arsène Wenger has not indicated that he wants to leave Arsenal just yet.
Guardiola, again in staunch following of his principles, would not go behind his back to get him out of his job. He is averse to any type of speculation of the sort, and would be reluctant to see a fellow manager treated in any other way than he would like to be.
Bayern It Is Then
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It may be easy to say in retrospect that Bayern Munich was the only option that really made sense for Guardiola, but many will say it was.
The Bavarian club encompasses a number of elements that the EPL clubs lack, to recapitulate:
- It has the history and prestige that Manchester City and Chelsea lack.
- It has a manager whose contract expires at the end of the season, unlike Arsenal, Manchester United or Manchester City.
- It has the ambition and potential to compete both in its domestic league and the Champions League, and has proven to do so in the last few years, unlike Manchester City or Arsenal.
- And, finally, Bayern are most likely to stand by Guardiola independently of how his first season goes, something that is far from guaranteed at the likes of Chelsea or even Manchester City, both in search of short-term success.