Pep Guardiola: The race for iconic coach’s signature

Story highlights

Pep Guardiola wants to manage in England next season

Bayern Munich coach is one of soccer's best managers

Manchester City is favorite to acquire Guardiola's services

CNN  — 

It’s official – arguably the world’s best coach Pep Guardiola is packing his bags and heading for England.

And after announcing his intentions, the coach of German champion Bayern Munich has the heavyweights of the English Premier League scrambling their jets in a race for his signature.

The 44-year-old Spaniard is one of football’s most sought-after coaches following his all-conquering spell in charge of Barcelona, where he won 14 major trophies in a four-year stint.

After three La Liga titles and two European Champions League crowns he swapped Catalonia for Bavaria, and embarked upon a similar domestic dominance with Bayern.

European success has eluded him so far, but the club is on course for a third straight Bundesliga title under his command.

In a press conference this week he told reporters: “I want to work in England,” but stressed he had no agreement in place yet.

With several of the EPL’s top clubs in a state of flux, Guardiola has a myriad of options – but where will he end up?

CNN Sport assesses the candidates all bidding to lock down the game’s most prized managerial asset.

Manchester City

The two-time Premier League champion is the undisputed frontrunner to procure Pep, with some media reports claiming it is a done deal already.

Current coach Manuel Pellegrini won the EPL title and England’s second most prestigious cup competition in his first year in charge but finished eight points behind Chelsea last season.

Two successive exits at the last 16 stage of the Champions League has also put strain on the Pellegrini regime, with the club’s Abu Dhabi owners hungry for continental success.

After splashing out a reported $150 million on Belgium international Kevin De Bruyne and England winger Raheem Sterling, City began this season with five straight victories.

But a wobble in the fall saw it lose 4-1 to Spurs and succumb by the same scoreline at home to Liverpool. City has lost five times already this campaign and it trails leader Arsenal by three points just after the halfway stage.

Pellegrini’s contract runs to June 2017 but City has been ruthless with past managers and realistically the Chilean would need to bag an EPL and Champions League double to save his job were Guardiola interested.

Even then it might be too late.

For Guardiola, the attractions are plentiful.

He would inherit ambitious owners and a hefty budget, as well as the chance to work with some of the world’s finest players – like Argentina striker Sergio Aguero and Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure.

The chance to lead City to its first Champions League title would be another carrot, while he has previously worked with City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, at Barca.

Manchester United

The Premier League’s most successful club, with 13 titles to its name, Manchester United has been in a state of flux since Alex Ferguson retired.

The man who built an empire at Old Trafford stepped down at the end of the 2012-13 season, having delivered the 28th major trophy of his epic 27-year reign.

His replacement David Moyes lasted just 10 months before being sacked after a season in which United failed to secure Champions League football for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Moyes’ successor, former Dutch national coach Louis van Gaal, made sure that was a brief absence, finishing fourth in a season of transition.

But this was the campaign in which his changes, and signings, were supposed see United embrace the attacking dynamism of old. Quite the opposite has happened.

Lamented as boring, United has scored significantly less goals than its main rivals, mustering just 12 in 10 matches at Old Trafford. It currently sits fifth, nine points off the top.

It has even got to the stage where one of its sponsors – Adidas – has reportedly expressed concerns about United’s entertainment value.

The fans are getting impatient, and even sang the name of recently sacked Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho during December’s home defeat by Norwich.

Guardiola’s brand of fast-paced, offensive soccer would be the perfect antidote to this season’s dreary fare, and he’d be gleefully welcomed by the club’s supporters.

But what would the Spaniard get aside unadulterated adulation? First and foremost, the chance to restore an ailing great to its former glory.

United has history in spades, from the era of the “Busby Babes” to the great sides that included Bobby Charlton, George Best, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The transfer budget is more than healthy, the club is a massive pull for players the world over, fills its 75,000-capacity stadium every EPL match and has a proud European pedigree.

What’s not to like?


An outsider in what is more than likely a two-horse, Manchester-based race.

The defending EPL champion has had a season to forget, languishing a mere six points above the relegation zone – an almost unprecedented occurrence.

After weeks of speculation, Chelsea finally bit the bullet and sacked manager Mourinho on December 17 – a spectacular fall from grace for the coach known as “The Special One.”

Since then, veteran Dutch coach Guus Hiddink has steadied the ship after being convinced to reprise the interim manager’s role he first assumed in 2009 after the sacking of former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

The 69-year-old is unlikely to extend his stay beyond the season’s end though, leaving Chelsea in the market for its 11th manager in eight years.

Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich would love to get his hands on Guardiola’s services, and would no doubt throw untold amounts of money to try and tempt him to west London.

But whether Guardiola would be keen to step into Mourinho’s still-warm shoes is a key point, given Abramovich’s track record in firing managers.

The Portuguese was Guardiola’s nemesis when he was in charge at Real Madrid; Mourinho even poked a finger in the eye of one of Barca’s coaching staff during a touchline row when the teams met in 2011.

Barcelona endured a particularly fractious encounter with Chelsea in the 2009 Champions League semifinal, when a last-minute goal put the Catalans into the final, one that Guardiola’s side subsequently won against Manchester United.

Chelsea does have a European triumph to its name, though, which might count against it in its pursuit of the coach.


An outside bet, perhaps, but maybe the most natural fit for Guardiola given the style of football he and Arsenal both enjoy.

Should the Gunners falter in pursuit of a first Premier League title since 2004, then Arsene Wenger’s long stint as manager could come to an end.

The Frenchman has been in charge at the north London club since 1996 but only has two triumphs in England’s most prestigious cup competition to his name in the last 10 years – although those have arrived in the past two seasons.

A large section of the club’s fans are keen for a change and have called for Wenger’s head at various spells over the previous few seasons, though those FA Cup successes have eased the pressure slightly.

But the commonly-held view is that Wenger will only leave the club at a time of his choosing.

Whether the 66-year-old would step aside if he were to lead Arsenal to its 14th top-flight English title at the end of the current campaign remains to be seen.

Would he fall on his sword if there is a genuine chance of landing Guardiola, if he thought it in the best interests of the club?

Guardiola has been very complimentary about Arsenal and its attacking modus operandi in the past and might see it as best fitting his footballing philosophy.

The chance to be based in the capital may also prove a draw, with Arsenal also in a very healthy financial situation.

Arsenal is yet to break its European Champions League duck, being beaten by Barcelona in its only appearance in the final back in 2006.

Leicester City

If Guardiola fancies a slightly different challenge, why not throw in his lot with the surprise package of the Premier League season so far?

Leicester sits second in the table, two points behind leader Arsenal, after a sensational start to the 2015-16 campaign.

The club stayed up by the skin of its teeth last season and has undergone a transformation of epic proportions this time.

Wily Italian manager Claudio Ranieri has overseen its rebirth, with Champions League football now a very realistic prospect.

Its star striker Jamie Vardy already has 15 league goals to his name this season, nine more than Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, while France-born Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez has 13 goals and seven assists.

So, could Guardiola be tempted by a table-topping team, the promise of Champions League football and a young, hungry squad?

With all due respect to Leicester, no, probably not.

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