For some reason, Pep didn’t feel like taking over Chelsea right now.
Comfortably ensconced in his TriBeCa hideaway, the allure of stitching together the two halves of Roberto di Matteo’s hopelessly broken team, while trying to coax co-operation out of a bunch of surly teenagers masquerading as the club’s senior players – most of whom will hate him on sight simply for not being their best mate José – and finding some alchemy that will convert a base £50m paperweight into golden goals somehow escaped Guardiola, and he politely declined the opportunity.
Stamford Bridge may well be a more welcoming place in the summer though, once Rafael Benítez has slogged his way through seven months of thankless tasking to keep Chelsea in solid but unspectacular contention at the top of the league. Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard will have been ushered out the door, making the dressing room infinitely more hospitable to new ideas. Funds will certainly be made available to replace Fernando Torres, and to find a deep-lying midfielder capable of picking out a progressive pass and take best advantage of the clever movement of the Mata-Oscar-Hazard perma-flitting attacking axis, rather than Obi Mikel and Ramires’ current strategy of running blindly forward, losing the dribble off their own ankles and hoping the ball caroms at a forwards’ feet somehow.
John Terry will still be around though, having been canonised by the Chelsea support after he supplied each one of them a plastic flag emblazoned with RAFA OUT to wave as they boo and boo and boo and then cheer when he bravely scissor-tackles a referee for giving a throw-in the wrong way. To ludicrously exaggerate the current situation for cheap comedic effect.
More pertinently, the club will still be ruled by the transitory caprice of Roman Abramovich – an environment that is the enemy of the stability and unified philosophy that the modern Barcelona exemplifies. It would be a challenging project – that much is certain – but one where Guardiola would have to begin at absolute first principles. Chelsea as a team currently have no set identity, wavering between move-the-ball-quickly, defend-in-numbers and lump-it-up-to-Didier, what-do-you-mean-he’s-not-here-anymore at random, often within the same game. There is almost no youth system to speak of, and certainly nothing to suggest that apprentices that are there are being weaned on a tactical formula that will allow them to slot into the first team on a moment’s notice. This, in short, could not be further from Guardiola’s habitual set-up if you moved the whole club 133 miles up the road to a permanent residence on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke.
Chelsea then is a five-year project for Guardiola, but one that is likely to be cut short after nine months if Abramovich doesn’t feel like he’s getting the millions of bang that his millions of bucks deserve. If nothing about this is screaming ‘dream job’ to the Catalan maestro, then where should he be heading?
Anyone who takes over Manchester United after Alex Ferguson will be the biggest rebound-romance in the history of the game. Best to let some other poor sap find out just how many secret plates the Govanite’s kept spinning at Old Trafford over the years before stepping in to sweep up the broken crockery.
Arsenal are modelled after Barcelona in a lot of ways, so they may seem like a natural fit for Guardiola, but that move would be like quitting the Beatles so you can play rhythm guitar in Oasis. A pale imitation of past glories is not progress.
Despite what every instinct tells you about a nouveau riche club, Manchester City have a surprisingly well-planned infrastructure. The youth system at Eastlands was already quite productive, but the moves made by the club’s Abu Dhabi ownership to improve training facilities and scouting suggest a clear plan to take City in a positively Guardiola-y direction. However, there remains the lingering suspicion that no matter how wise or thorough the investment strategy, any City manager will be no more than two injuries away from having to field James Milner. And that’s no way to live.
What should be Pep’s plan then? Well, given that he is the epitome of the modern manager, his career should mirror the way most in the modern world understand that role. Guardiola should aim for a Football Manager career.
We all begin Football Manager by taking charge of the club we support – we know the players inside-out and are best placed to make the right decisions about which moves to make to lead our favourites to European glory. Guardiola has emphatically executed that stage of the game with his Barça trophy haul.
The next step is to up the challenge by taking one of the lesser clubs to unprecedented heights. I’m not suggesting that Pep try to lead East Fife to the Champions League, but if he really wanted to take on a task, then he’d have a bash at a club with a good foundation but unfulfilled potential. He’d be making a pot of tea, taking the laptop to bed with him and loading up Everton, Udinese or Athletic Club with the aim of title contention within four seasons. I’m sure that Guardiola wants to go to a club that will be able to supply him the wages and the world-class players to which he has become accustomed – but everybody knows that only boring folk play as a Champions League club in Football Manager. If Pep really wants to build a legacy as one of the finest managers of the modern era, he’ll do it by playing his career in hard mode.
Nicol Hay watches a lot of sport and then writes about it. It's a compulsion, and he needs help desperately. His blogging can be found here, and you can follow him on Twitter here.