Man City hope to lure Guardiola next summer

Man City hope to lure Guardiola next summer
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Published March 11th, 2015 - 17:21 GMT via

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Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola

Manchester City's Premier League race is run and the club's Champions League adventure is nearing a familiar conclusion, but the club will not be rushed in its pursuit of its No. 1 managerial target.

Pep Guardiola has been the top choice to take the reins at the Etihad Stadium ever since Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano were put in charge of football operations in 2012.

The club's attempts to lure him to Manchester as Roberto Mancini’s replacement were dealt a fatal blow in early 2013 when the Catalan coach agreed to take over at Bayern Munich.

Even before news of Guardiola’s deal to take over at the Allianz Arena was obtained by Sky Sport Italia, which in turn forced the German giant to go public, Begiristain and Soriano, thanks to their close relationship with the coach, were well aware that they would not get their man.

The interest, however, has not diminished over the past two years. While current manager Manuel Pellegrini is in no impending danger of losing his job, the City hierarchy is continually planning for the future, and Guardiola remains central to those plans.

When talks over an extension to his current deal in Germany, which runs until next summer, were put on hold at the start of 2015, it set tongues wagging across the continent.

Recent reports in Germany had suggested first that Guardiola would leave Bayern this summer, and then that he had already reached an agreement with his old friends in England. In Spain, meanwhile, there is the suggestion that he could be tempted back to Barcelona as part of any successful presidential campaign by Joan Laporta, another former ally.

His denial last week, however, was stern and hinted at a desire to stay with his current employer beyond the previously agreed three-year period.

"Manchester City? I did not receive any offers and I am not waiting for them. I hope to stay at Bayern Munich for a long time," he said. "I have a contract with this wonderful club and aim to fulfill that. I have not received any offers.

"We'll sit down in the summer and talk. I am very happy here and this is an extraordinary club.”

City executives will be well aware of Guardiola’s intentions over the coming months, whether they tally with public statements or not.

It does, however, leave the club in a difficult position. Despite mounting pressure in the wake of defeats to Barcelona and Liverpool, Pellegrini is not facing the sack and would only be shown the door should his team’s form suffer a drastic downturn in fortunes.

That’s not to say that Pellegrini is a permanent fixture at the newly unveiled Etihad Campus. Like Guardiola, the Chilean’s contract is up at the end of next season and no talks over an extension have taken place - nor are they scheduled.

It is essentially a delicate waiting game. Patrick Vieira, currently in charge of the club’s ‘Elite Development Squad’, would most likely step into the breach until the end of the season in the currently unlikely event that Pellegrini gets the bullet.

Vieira is being readied as a potential manager of the future, but would not want to take on a stop-gap role only to make way for Guardiola, or anybody else, 12 months down the line.

But who else is there? Diego Simeone has been considered, but written off as too volatile. Jurgen Klopp was in the mix when Guardiola made the decision to join Bayern in early 2013, but had no desire to leave Dortmund at the time.

While the club is keen not to put all its eggs in one basket this time around, Guardiola, in truth, is the only option.

That brings with it a raft of implications. For one thing, the cost of bringing him in now and firing Pellegrini is calculated at around 15 million pounds. Waiting another year, though, leaves the club in limbo.

While there is no suggestion of the rifts within the squad which did for City’s hopes of defending its Premier League title in 2012-13, and ultimately for Mancini, there is a sense of malaise around the club at present.

Pellegrini’s 4-4-2 formation has been increasingly called into question in the big games, with many hoping he changes tact if he is to have any chance of overturning the 2-1 deficit against Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 in a week’s time.

There are question marks around the club’s recruitment in recent seasons, too, and while another summer of big spending could mean the next man has some stellar names to select, it could become a problem if it is Guardiola who inherits them.

He, clearly, likes a certain type of attacking player and has very specific demands of his goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders. It is hard to see where recent big-money signings like Eliaquim Mangala, Fernandinho and Wilfried Bony, for example, would fit in.

But what is clear is that Pep Guardiola is first choice for Manchester City, and in the pursuit to become one of Europe’s biggest clubs City will not allow itself to miss out for a second time.

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