James Lawton: Why would Pep Guardiola even consider going near Roman Abramovich's gilded playpen?

At Chelsea there is no meaning beyond the gratification of the owner's mood

There is no mystery in Rafa Benitez's rush to the colours of Roman Abramovich. He has scarcely concealed his eagerness to return to the game.

But then nor should there be any surprise that Pep Guardiola, the oligarch's latest favourite football man, has for the moment at least chosen the stimulations of the Big Apple over the club whose treatment of Roberto Di Matteo must suggest for some a certain rottenness at its core.

Why, if you are a lord of the football universe, if you have credentials which give off an almost unearthly glow, would you consider for a second, serving an organisation which has proved so incapable of either understanding, and still less respecting, the nature of the challenge facing even the very best of your trade?

If the former master of Barcelona was to finally agree to the blandishments of Abramovich, perhaps in the spring of some interim agony for Benitez, he would be Chelsea's ninth manager since 2003. It is not so much a record of employment as professional incontinence

Guardiola might not consider himself a boon companion of Jose Mourinho, his bitter rival at Real Madrid, but he knows well enough the extent of his skill and achievements at Chelsea before being shown the shown the door at Stamford Bridge with such a brutal lack of ceremony.

Mourinho was a Champions League winner before he became another notch on Roman Abramovich's gun-belt. So was Carlo Ancelotti. Luis Felipe Scolari had a World Cup and a storeroom of Brazilian silverware.

Now the latest disposable object, Di Matteo, has the chagrin of going down after winning the prize which has always been the oligarch's supreme measurement of football success, plus an FA Cup, in less than a full season. He has been told by Abramovich and his advisers that he failed the acid test of performance – while, in a "transitional" season, remaining just four points off the lead in the Premier League.

There is always the question of money. The oligarch can throw any amount of it at any football catastrophe he perpetuates, including, when signing fees and severance arrangements were totted up, something close to £30m in the abject case of Andre Villas-Boas, director of the "project" which Di Matteo salvaged so miraculously.

The sacking of Di Matteo is quite staggering in its indifference to what he achieved, the credibility he rescued, the joy he produced and the professional reality to which he returned a club that was falling apart under the weight of its own ineptitude. This is not only the action of ingrates, it one of football illiteracy, of arrogance off the chart. It tells us, more graphically than ever before, about the meaning of Abramovich's playpen. And what it says is there is no meaning beyond the gratification of the owner's mood. No feeling for the process of making a football team, no grasp of the time or the insight it takes.

At Chelsea, you live in the moment. It is a travesty of the way you build a football club. It is stripped of any instinct for the job. It is deprived of the oxygen of patience and care and knowledge.

Abramovich has the money which tells him that there will always be somebody willing to run the gauntlet and then take the pay-off and wait for the wounds to heal. Benitez, who had his La Liga wins with Valencia and that extraordinary, unfathomable night in Istanbul, is understandably willing to take the Stamford Bridge life-line, for however long it is extended. He is plainly desperate to return to the game after the barren years at Anfield and brisk nose-dive at Internazionale.

But Guardiola? Why on earth would he endanger his standing in the game and work for a club operating on another planet from the one which he carried into such glorious terrain?

When Guardiola won for Barcelona he not only triumphed for the club that had nourished him as a young man and laid down principles of recruitment and development which would always be his guiding lights, he did it for the values of the wider world of football. In the process, it appears that he also managed to win the admiration of Abramovich.

But then how deeply does it run? Would it survive the lean spell that saw Di Matteo's Chelsea conjure a Champions League semi-final triumph at the Nou Camp last spring – and Mourinho take the La Liga title? Would it weather the inevitable fallow times that come to even the most superior manager when he works towards a future illuminated both by success and the kind of football he holds most dear?

It is something that Guardiola, besieged by both Abramovich and the owners of Manchester City and Milan, we are told, must surely be considering as his sabbatical in New York begins to run down.

He took it because he said that even at the Nou Camp, where he was indeed the lord of all he surveyed, the pressure had become unbearable. It was the burden of maintaining success in a place where he had made it a matter of routine.

He can be sure another kind of weight will come to his shoulders if, sooner or later, he agrees to become the latest acquisition of the man who has reason to believe he can buy anyone or anything.

It is a demand quite different to the one he faced at the Nou Camp, one that grants neither time nor professional respect, and if he ever had reason to value his place in the world and in football – and his New York state of mind – it has surely been provided by the vulgar, unconscionable sacking of Roberto Di Matteo.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform