It is the January transfer window in the football world. It is a one month mad dash to mend all the injuries and deficiencies your team possesses. While players will be changing shirts and addresses with great regularity, another cycle is beginning to swirl in the European football community. The first domino to fall in the coaching community was Chelsea’s sacking of Jose Mourinho. Next came Rafa Benitez’s unseating at Real Madrid. Now Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola has confirmed the rumors that his next managerial gig will be in the Premier League. The managerial carousel has begun to turn and some world class managers are going for a ride. Where will they stop? Here’s a look into the crystal ball.
Bayern have already made their post-Pep plans as they have lined up Carlo Ancelotti to take over the reins at season’s end. This a tremendous preemptive strike by the Bundesliga leaders. Ancelotti is one of the preeminent managers in Europe of all-time, having won a total of 17 trophies in four different countries. He will certainly add to his haul at Bayern. As there will be with any managerial change, Carlo will try to acquire some of his former players to ease the implementation of his system. It will surely be necessary as it is fully expected that Pep Guardiola will be bringing several Bayern players with him to wherever he lands in 2016.
Pep Guardiola was never credibly linked to Real Madrid, but the rumors swirled around him and Jose Mourinho when Rafa Benitez was relieved of his managerial duties just after the New Year. B team manager and club legend Zinedine Zidane got the role, but the question now is whether this is a stopgap or a long term appointment? We all know there isn’t ever a real long term appointment at the Bernabeu, but will Zizou be more than a caretaker with so many tantalizing options on Florentino Perez’s plate? Many fail to remember that Guardiola himself had a similar transition before his coaching profile ignited at the Camp Nou. It will most likely come down to how Madrid finishes 2016. A Champions League or La Liga crown could bring some complacency with the board. However, Mourinho won the league and Ancelotti won La Decima and that couldn’t save either of them.
The whispering that has the loudest reverberation is Pep Guardiola to Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini has been fantastic with the Citizens, but the lure of Guardiola won’t prompt any hesitation to move on in the summer. Pep has strong ties to the leadership at City, namely Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Sorriano, two men who worked closely with him at Barcelona. According to various reports, Guardiola is not only going to want some of his current players to go with him, but several other key stars as well. To get one of those players, Real Madrid’s Isco, Pellegrini may have to help his eventual replacement. Pellegrini gave Isco his first run at Malaga. It would be a perfect landing spot for him, as well as ticking a box on the Guardiola wish list. If for some reason Guardiola flakes, they still have Pellegrini locked up until 2017. That isn’t the worst consolation prize.
Louis Van Gaal is having a rough go of it this year with Manchester United. With Mourinho out at Chelsea and the unpredictable City looming, United have pondered a Pep Guardiola run themselves. LVG has lost the fans an maybe even his staff. Any United supporter can remember Ryan Giggs’ antics in the final days of the David Moyes era. Would sacking Van Gaal for Guardiola before the end of the 2015-16 season be out of the realm of possibility? Not at all. Guardiola reveres the hallowed halls of Old Trafford. He would relish in the challenge to restore the glory of the Ferguson regime to the red side of Manchester. BUT United also have Jose Mourinho as a pretty spectacular fallback. He wants to stay in England and despite their recent woes there is no bigger stage to shine on in the EPL than Man U.
The team that could be the fly in the ointment of the managerial carousel is Chelsea. They got the ball rolling when they canned The Special One. Owner Roman Abramovich wouldn’t be shy about outbidding two Premier League rivals to snare Pep Guardiola from their grasp. Guus Hiddink has Chelsea playing better, but he won’t have any hand in transfers this January which means they are buying for the next guy. Those buys could be quite the foreshadowing.
As always over the course of the year, more jobs will open and the carousel will continue to spin. Rafa Benitez won’t be out of work for long. Fabio Capello could easily work his way back into the club management fold. Teams are still salivating over the day Diego Simeone leaves Atletico Madrid. Even more former players may go the Zidane route. So while you watch this winter who is being bought for your squad, pay just as much attention to who may be brought in to lead it.