A relaxed and relieved Josep Guardiola finally brought the curtain down on his spectacular reign as Barcelona manager. Four seasons under his guidance yielded three La Liga titles, two Champions League crowns and eight sundry trophies.
However, for all the success Guardiola was becoming something of a Brett Favre figure. As each season came to an end the speculation over whether he would sign another one-year contract grew. Guardiola did little to quell this speculation as he appeared to be fighting an internal urge to cut and run.
Every new contract seemed to be signed with the sombre weight of the expectation and pressure of the coming season weighing him down. Guardiola clearly loves Barcelona as a club but the pressure has been taking its toll for some time.
The disappointment of losing the La Liga title and being knocked out of the Champions League within a matter of days may simply have hastened the announcement. The decision may already have been made. The decision may have been made during each of the last three summers but leaving on a high is easier said than done. That’s the trouble with highs, they can be awfully addictive. Perhaps this low was the escape rout he had been looking for.
“Maybe he has not shown the stress. Maybe it’s taken more than he has shown. You never know from the outside how deeply a man suffers from the inside,” reflected Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after hearing the news.
Judging by his demeanour in the press conference this is the right decision for Guardiola the man. But what lies ahead for Guardiola the manager?
“I never met with Roman Abramovich nor any Chelsea representative. I’m not interested in coaching now,” he said.
That statement indicates he intends taking a sabbatical from the game. A well-earned rest after four years in one of the most pressurised and scrutinised roles in sport. But what difference will one month off recharging his batteries make when the wealthy suitors come knocking? The desire to spend more time with the family can quickly be quelled by spending more time with the family. Will he be able to fill the seismic gap in his life that football will leave?
Chelsea, due to their lack of a big-name manager and the persuasive powers of Roman Abramovich’s billions, are the favourites in the betting to procure Pep’s services next at 3/1. The odds of him taking over England for the Euros is a not-unlikely 7/1. Should Harry be worried? And where does that leave Roberto Di Matteo who warrants and desperately wants a longer run in one of the most turbulent posts in the game.
Manchester United are curiously priced as 7/2 second favourites. Alex Ferguson is unlikely to retire this summer so if Guardiola is determined to take a sabbatical, then perhaps this could be a shrewd bet. Albeit a long term one.
Latest Odds on Guardiola’s next job…
- Chelsea – 3/1
- Man Utd – 7/2
- Man City – 5/1
- Inter Milan – 6/1
- England – 7/1
- Arsenal – 15/2
- AC Milan – 12/1
- Liverpool – 12/1