Pep An All-Time Great? Now We’ll Never Know

The worst kept secret in the Premier League has finally received official yellow ticker status after Manchester City confirmed that Pep Guardiola will be joining them this summer.

Guardiola’s rise to the heights of the hottest property on the managerial market has been a glittering one. His inevitable third Bundesliga title in May will sit alongside a trio of La Liga titles and the two Champions League trophies he’s already bagged as a manager. The latter may be become a hat-trick too by the time he swaps his lederhosen for a Liam Gallagher parka come late May.

Given such a cramped trophy cabinet, busier than the one at the football club he’s joining, you’d think the Catalan export would be widely regarded as one of the all-time greats; but doubts remain as to what sort of legacy Guardiola will leave behind when he eventually hands in his notice at whatever club he chooses to be his last. Evidence so far suggests it won’t be City.

So why these doubts? Well it’s not only over a pint at the local that observers are pointing out that Pep the Great has never faced a proper examination during his whole career as manager.

At Barcelona, there’s a school of thought that Frank Rijkaard before him was the man who revitalised the club post Van Gaal, dribbling the ball around the whole team only for Pep to come along and tap it into the net, running off with his shirt swirling above his head for the pleasure of the awestruck audience at the Camp Nou.

Meanwhile at Bayern, the side he inherited was already littered with quality players and had broken a list of records longer than a queue at Oktoberfest when becoming treble winners under the tutorship of Jupp Heynckes. But I’m not saying that makes Guardiola a bad manager. Of course not.

His current crop of Bayern Munich stars have only conceded 9 goals in 19 league games so far this season in the Bundesliga.

It’s an impressive statistic and a sign of things to come at City perhaps. His brand of football may well be the best thing sliced bread, but at worst I’m saying I don’t know. Surely you have to sit the paper first?

The easier assignment seems to be his forte and commentators and pundits alike are raising an eyebrow as to his choice of new employer, as City’s fans prepare to carry their latest Messiah into the Etihad Campus on a sky blue throne amidst a shower of blow-up bananas.

The Citizens are on the up, a cohort of exciting talented players are backed up by an impressive new academy which bodes well for the future, and now they have the world’s most sought after manager at the wheel.

Noisy Neighbours
Down the road, the neon letters that adorn the front of Old Trafford are currently in the process of being screwed off and replaced by a giant rusty sign reading ‘noisy neighbours’, a moniker which is slowly but surely, to the horror of the United faithful, making its way across on loan from the blue to the red half of the rainy city.

Sir Fergie’s replacements are coming up short; Moyes the rabbit in the headlights, Van Gaal the has-been who continues to play a game of pass the parcel with a football where the music never stops. Whatever way the fans look, they have to face the inevitable. The academy is in bits, the empire is crumbling and the salt in the wound comes in the form of the well-to-do neighbours, who are unzipping their jeans as they prepare to ‘water’ your graves.

But there resides the reason that Pep Guardiola should have chosen United. That is where the real challenge lies.

That is where he could test and prove his credentials as a football manager, by halting United’s slide, returning them to the top of the table and reminding their blue-nosed neighbours that there’s only one team in Manchester capable of filling their seats, even on the two rows of Soccer AM’s Luther Blissett stand.

You Can’t Buy History
And that’s before I’ve even started on the histories of the two clubs. No matter how many Dirham they throw at it, City can’t erase United’s history and replace it with a drawing of their own. For the club that sings about a blue moon, they’ll always be the Buzz Aldrins of Manchester, long after the statues of Curly Watts and Les Battersby have been erected outside the seemingly unnecessary growing stands at the Etihad.

Pep Guardiola therefore has made a mistake. He can win all the trophies he wants at City, but will we ever be sure of how good a manager he actually was? Some armchair onlookers of Formula One say that the drivers with the best cars are always the ones spraying the champagne come the anthems, no matter how good or bad a driver they happen to be. All the driver has to do is put the pedal to the metal.

The petrolheads will be quick to ridicule that theory, but regardless, try winning the World Championship nowadays with a vintage Rolls Royce where the bolts are coming loose and the wheels are rolling off. That’s United at the minute and that’s the challenge that Pep has passed up.

He may ride off into the sunset with another few trophies to adorn his crowded mantelpiece, but what about his status as an all-time great? Now we’ll never know.