Manchester City believe that they will reap the benefits of securing Pep Guardiola as their next manager even before the Spaniard has arrived, with the desire to be a part of his squad next season potentially galvanising the players to win the Premier League this year.
The 45-year-old’s appointment was confirmed yesterday and though Yaya Touré, shown the door at Barcelona by him in 2010, may not be so motivated, the club do expect competition for a place in his squad to intensify. Guardiola’s presence at the Etihad is also likely to make City attractive for the players who have been on their radar: Everton’s Ross Barkley and John Stones and Juventus’s Paul Pogba. Though Guardiola may seek to strengthen City’s goalscoring options by trying to bring Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich, Real Madrid have made him one of two prime targets if they avoid a transfer embargo. The Spanish club are favourites.
For City, whose five-year deal for Guardiola is thought to carry an annual salary of around €20m (£15.5m), yesterday’s announcement marks the end of four-year pursuit of the Catalonian. They spoke to him in 2012, when seeking a replacement for Roberto Mancini, but turned to Pellegrini when Guardiola was unavailable. The Chilean has been aware all along that Guardiola was City’s prime target last time.
City do not believe there is any likelihood that the four-month interregnum will affect them as it did Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson briefly planned a departure in 2001. Pellegrini is not a pillar of the club in the same way that Ferguson was, and the replacement is known. United insist in the strongest possible terms that they have not made a play for Guardiola in recent weeks.
Pellegrini, who broke the news of his departure to the players after training yesterday, wanted it to be made public – in part because he has ambitions to manage again in the Premier League next season. He will be of interest to Chelsea, having delivered the title to City in his first season. The Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, is unlikely to let Mauricio Pochettino leave this summer, which would leave Pellegrini up against Antonio Conte, Jorge Sampaoli, Diego Simeone and Didier Deschamps – all unproven here.
City, who insist they would not have parted company with Pellegrini had Guardiola not been available, would not stand in the Chilean’s way if he wishes to speak to other clubs, with his former sides Malaga and Villarreal also likely to be contenders for his services.
“Great news about Pep! Now let’s go and win some trophies and give Manuel a good send off!” Francis Lee
“Pep signing for City has really messed up my day. His records are unreal..” Rio Ferdinand
“Pellegrini @MCFC, great respect. Handles himself so well. Class” Peter Reid
“Feel for Pellegrini and have to say he’s an absolute gent @MCFC” Trevor Sinclair
“Interested to see how he deals with the demand of EPL. A huge challenge for him” Joey Barton
“Greatest coach sacked, greatest captain leaving & Roman doesn’t get Pep... really, @ChelseaFC?” Kevin Pietersen