Chelsea left in lurch by Pep Guardiola's shock move
Abramovich's dream of making Spaniard manager ended by surprise Bayern switch
Rafa Benitez’s chances of being appointed Chelsea manager on a permanent basis were dealt yet another blow tonight as his team dropped two points at home in the Premier League to Southampton, on the day that Pep Guardiola again rejected a future at Stamford Bridge.
The worst fears of the Chelsea hierarchy were confirmed when Guardiola agreed a three-year contract to take over at Bayern Munich from next season, a bad day for the club made worse by a 2-2 draw at home to Southampton in which the away side came back from two goals down.
Benitez's team are now 13 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United and the club's interim first-team coach was booed off again by hostile fans at Stamford Bridge. Asked about Guardiola's decision tonight, Benitez said: "It's fine for him. He deserves to go there. No, it's not a surprise." When it was put to him that it was one less candidate for the job, he replied: "My job is to get three points against Arsenal."
The reigning European champions had long suspected that their protracted attempts to appoint Guardiola would end in failure, but even so they were not aware that today's announcement from Germany was coming. The deal between Bayern and Guardiola has been in the making since before Christmas.
For some at Chelsea it even came as a relief that they could now put aside their long-term pursuit of the coach and begin planning for a future that does not include Guardiola. Yet it is unlikely to change Benitez's position.
The club's understanding with Benitez is that he should treat Chelsea as a long-term project, in the event that his deal, which lasts until June, is renewed in the summer, but also to accept that the nature of that contract reflects the club's desire to review the situation at the end of the season.
Guardiola has long been first choice for Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, who has made clear his desire to have the Spanish coach in place. The club tried to appoint him in the summer after Roberto Di Matteo's Champions League success, and again in November when they dismissed the Italian.
Chelsea do not feel they could have done much more to persuade Guardiola to come to Stamford Bridge, but the mood at the club today was that they have won Europe's biggest prizes without Guardiola in charge and that one man alone would not be critical to them repeating that success.
Guardiola's decision also rules out any possibility of him succeeding Roberto Mancini at Manchester City this summer, had the Premier League champions decided to make a change. Certainly, the appointment of Ferran Soriano as City's chief executive and Txiki Begiristain as director of football – both are former Barcelona executives – pointed to that possibility.
Guardiola will take over at the end of the season from Jupp Heynckes, the 67-year-old whose team is nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga after 17 games and who had always planned to retire at the end of the season. The Bayern chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, said: "Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful coaches in the world and we are sure that he can make not just Bayern, but all of German football shine."
From a more long-term perspective, refusing Chelsea and City does mean that the Manchester United job is a possibility for Guardiola when Sir Alex Ferguson finally decides to retire.
Raul's advice made sure Germany would beat England once again
It felt like losing to the Germans again when Pep Guardiola picked the Bundesliga over the Premier League. But rather than a snub for English football it was a glowing endorsement of the German game.
His close friend Raul, who spent two seasons at Schalke, helped convince him that his family would be happy in Germany and he would enjoy coaching there. The two played together for Spain, and Guardiola is famous for calling Raul "Spain's greatest-ever player". Raul sought Guardiola's advice before moving to Qatar, where the former Barcelona coach spent two years.
Raul visited Guardiola last season when he was in Germany for a Champions League game against Leverkusen. The two spoke about the many benefits and few drawbacks of football in the country. Bayern is majority-owned by its supporters and likes to bring on home-grown players.
There is even speculation that Guardiola may make Raul his assistant at Bayern. However, that was dismissed by his agent, Josep Maria Orobitg, who said Guardiola agreed to join Bayern last month. He added: "Of all the teams that made offers this option was the best. It was signed before Christmas. He has chosen them because of the organisation there and the potential he sees in the players."
Pep's Pots: The trophies
Guardiola's managerial trophy haul:
1 x Tercera Division (2007-08)
3 x La Liga (2008-09, 09-10 10-11)
2 x Spanish Cup (2008-09, 11-12)
2 x Champions League (2009, 2011)
2 x Uefa Super Cup (2009, 2011)
2 x Club World Cup (2009, 2011)
Latest in Sport
Norwich 2 Liverpool 3 match report: Liverpool go five points clear of Chelsea at top of Premier League table on day Luis Suarez hits goal number 30
Jose Mourinho: Graceless reaction of Chelsea manager a sad effort to hide his own flaws
Luis Suarez and the 'Easter miracle': Liverpool striker shows both sides as he reaches 30 Premier League goals but play acts yet again
David Moyes says Manchester United passed 'brilliantly', despite 2-0 defeat to Everton
Liverpool: Three remaining fixtures - can they remain on top of the Premier League table?
- 1 Disabled people are trapped in assessment 'nightmare' by PIP benefits regime, says Dr Stephen Duckworth
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Queen turns 88: David Bailey captures another side of the Queen in birthday portrait
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
An open letter to Nigel Farage: you may smile, but I am not seduced
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Abdullah Deghayes: My son was the martyr of a just cause, says father of British teenager killed in Syria conflict