Pep Alert !!!
I will try and keep this brief. We all know the infatuation that our owner has had with Pep Guardiola for many years now. It is also on record that since Pep decided to step aside from Barca, Roman has offered him unspeakable amounts of money to come and coach Chelsea. Much as I have my serious doubts about whether Pep can replicate the stupendous success he had at Barcelona with any other team in Europe I will say I am impressed that the man has been able to resist the allure of the amount of money Roman and others have thrown in his face in the last year. It does speak of a set of personal principles that few today in professional football have.
While Roman has always reportedly dealt with Pep via emissaries (pep has reportedly never accepted invitations to meet him in person), it is instructive to learn that Pep has recently met with the Mancity hierarchy including the owner Sheikh Mansour and their DOF; Txiki Begiristain who he knows from their mutual Barca days. The guy was reportedly told by these guys to essentially name his own salary to come manage City ...they essentially gave him a blank check!!! Even more intriguing though is the fact that in the last year that he has been on sabbatical Pep has met with Sir Alex Ferguson on multiple occasions. It is now rife over the internet and reported even on Fox soccer news that the most wanted man in Football has apparently reached a decision as to where and when he will return to the beautiful game.
Though not confirmed by him all pointers seem to indicate he will be taking over from SAF at ManU in the summer of 2013 when SAF is expected to finally hang up his illustrious boots and retire.
Why does this concern us you may ask? I wont waste time discussing how if this turns out to be true it would be a lesson to Roman on how not to go about recruiting a quality coach. There is a far bigger issue here. Pep is like the big elephant in the room. Once his final destination becomes common knowledge a domino effect immediately gets set in motion. At Real Madrid it is almost metaphysical certainty that Jose will not stay there beyond this summer. He will either be sacked if Real fail to win the Champions league (as the La Liga title is already wrapped up, sealed and delivered to Barca) or if he wins the Champions league he will resign to stick it to his detractors there. Where Jose goes from there is anyone`s guess but the rumors and common sense suggest that the most likely destinations will either be City or PSG..sites with the money to afford "the special one" and with the high level egos few can manage like him. Much as Jose and Roman remain amicable since Roman sacked him I don`t see any way Jose can return to Chelsea FC considering the egos of these two men and what Jose would demand as far as resources, authority and control for him to return here.
This is where it gets sticky because as we speak for a few weeks now there has been this subliminal rumor making the waves that Real Madrid are looking with interest at Rafa Benitez as their next possible coach (Jose himself has even made allusions to this possibility). This is not as outlandish as some may think..part of the problem many madridistas and the big name Spanish players in Real like Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas have with Jose is that he is not Spanish. Rafa is a Spaniard and his record while in La Liga is there for all to see. He is the last coach to win a La Liga title when not coaching either Barca or Real..This is no mean feat. He also has several Copa del Rey titles to his name not to mention Europa and Champions league titles. He certainly has the pedigree and experience.
The point is knowing Rafa and seeing that he after all only has an interim appointment with us (which expires in summer 2013) It will not surprise me if his reps are making those calls and initial contacts right now. He may well be using his time at Chelsea as the ultimate auditioning job there is; A stage to audition for what many see as the biggest job in club football management; namely head coach of Real Madrid.
Some time ago I wrote an article detailing dispassionately the strengths I saw that Rafa brought to our side. As expected most said that any consideration of offering him a more permanent appointment was premature. Well Roman and the three Amigos need to be very careful here; we may not have the luxury to wait till season`s end to decide on this. it looks like we have lost out on the Pep sweepstakes despite all Roman`s money. if they wait too long and Pep`s appointment to ManU becomes confirmed before you can say Jack Robinson the other dominos may fall. By the end of the season the issue of offering Rafa a permanent position with us may become moot as he may well by then have a way greater profile job offer.
One thing people need to know about Rafa is that he is a very proud man. It has no doubt dented his personal pride immensely to even have to take the Chelsea job. To take it as an interim coach was entirely out of necessity not because that is what he wanted. He will not look at an offer of a permanent appointment from us the same way, if it comes after it is apparent that Pep is not coming to us. It is one thing to offer him the permanent position because we think he merits it and it another altogether to offer it to him because the one preferred by Roman and his Amigos simply turned us down. If we do the latter and the timing shows it to be so don`t be surprised if Rafa then also tells Roman "No thank you" and rather waits for Jose`s exit from Real for him to move there. It should be apparent by now to Roman that money is not everything.
This summer will see some major coaching upheavals once Pep`s final destination become common knowledge. If we wait till then to decide what to do about Rafa Benitez we may well regret it.