As the dust settles on the announcement of the worst kept secret in football, Manchester City fans are rubbing their hands at the prospect of Pep Guardiola taking charge of their team from next season.
While the news was mostly expected, it is still being met with astonishment in many quarters as rivals come to terms with City pulling off a extraordinary managerial coup which is sure to help them achieve their goal of dominating Europe over the next few years.
The past 18 months has seen the Barcelona man cement his place among the best players on the planet. The Brazilian was recently quoted in Red Bull magazine expressing his admiration for Guardiola and while often too much is read into these throwaway comments, the prospect of the pair linking up together at Manchester City is something to behold.
Hotly tipped to break the Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly on the Ballon D’Or in the near future, Neymar has all the attributes required to help any club of his choosing dominate the European game for the next decade. Personal issues including an ongoing tax fraud trial regarding his 2013 transfer to the Catalan club may encourage the 23-year-old to seek pastures new.
One potential drawback is that Neymar is currently enjoying being one third of the Barcelona attacking triumvirate alongside Messi and Luis Suarez which many regard as the best of all time.
Guardiola has been known to deploy ‘false full-backs’ in central midfield positions who revert to their traditional roles during defensive phases. Throughout his spell at Bayern Munich, Alaba and Philip Lahm have performed these roles admirably.
While convincing Munich-born Lahm to leave his hometown club for Manchester may prove a task too far, Alaba may be easier to persuade. At 23-years-old, the Austrian international is at a good age to kick on and pursue a new challenge.
Named Austrian footballer of the year for the past five years, Alaba has won many admirers around Europe and Guardiola have been known to gush about his versatility. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pep go all out for Alaba this summer especially if he stars for Austria at the European Championships.
While City have been racking up trophies at a relatively steady rate in recent years, one does wonder how much harder it would have been without the goals of a certain Sergio Aguero.
City have long been in search of someone to lighten the goalscoring burden of the diminutive Argentine and Guardiola may well wish to have Europe’s most prolific striker accompany him through the Bayern Munich exit door.
Lewandowski is in a rich vein of form having netted 27 goals in 28 appearances this season including a five-goal salvo in a nine-minute spell during September’s Bundesliga clash with Wolfsburg.
There may be a stumbling block if Real Madrid win their appeal against their provisional transfer ban as Lewandowski may fit the bill for their annual summer ‘marquee signing’ but City chiefs will hope that the Polish international will have been suitably impressed with Guardiola to want to continue a successful working relationship in Manchester.
Back in 2009, Manchester United had won three successive Premier League titles, Sir Alex Ferguson was denouncing an ambitious City as nothing more than ‘noisy neighbours’ and a young upstart named Paul Pogba was making a name for himself in United’s underage sides.
Fast forward seven years and City have overtaken United as the Manchester’s best footballing side while the Red Devils face the real possibility of seeing Pogba turn out in the colours of their fierce rivals. Ferguson has long been criticised for not tying down the Frenchman to a long-term deal at United and the 22-year-old has flourished at Juventus since his arrival in 2012, picking up a host of individual and team honours.
It’s likely Pogba will soon realise he has achieved all he can at the Italian club and, like most elite footballers of the modern age, the prospect of working with Guardiola may prove tempting for a player who won the Best Young Player award at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Stop laughing down the back. The announcement that Guardiola will take over at Manchester City next season sent shockwaves around the world. This was in no small part due to the assumption that the club can use the pull of their new manager to attract the best players in the game to the club.
It just so happens that the current best player in the game previously enjoyed a successful working relationship with Guardiola.
During Pep’s four-year spell in charge of Barcelona, Messi developed from a wonderkid into a player now regarded as the world’s best. The Argentine was the central figure in Guardiola’s Barca side which picked up two Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles while he was in charge.
Before last year’s Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Bayern, Messi stated that he no longer has a special relationship with Guardiola. While some social media ‘experts’ may view this quote as ending any chance of the two working together again, the tempation to resume a hugely successful working relationship may prove pivotal.
It may be the right time for Messi to face new challenges in England but City chiefs will need to have their negotiation skills on point to prise him away from a club he has been at since he was 13.
Having already secured the world’s most coveted manager, who’s to say Manchester City can’t do the same with the best footballer on the planet? However people may scoff, the prospect certainly looks more likely than it did one week ago.
Should the enormous task be achieved, it’s enough to strike fear into City’s rivals in England and throughout Europe as the club looks to move their ‘project’ up another gear. Everything is certainly going to plan so far.