There’s a saying in journalism that ‘there is no smoke without fire’, and while we know that the media – the UK tabloids in particular – are not shy of exaggerating the truth, often there is a little more to the story than meets the eye.
And so the reports overnight that Pep Guardiola had met with Manchester United officials in a Paris hotel to discuss taking over as manager at the club were particularly interesting. All parties have denied the meeting took place as reported on the BBC website, but as we mention it’s rather a leap of faith for a French media agency to just create this story out of thin air.
If you were working in Germany and wanted to meet someone from Manchester after being headhunted for a job, you’d meet somewhere neutral like Paris, wouldn’t you?
The key to the story is that is has shaken up a brace of betting markets. The Spaniard is now a best price of 8/1 – and as short as 3/1 – to be the next permanent Manchester United manager. Jose Mourinho continues to head this particular market at 5/4, but it will be interesting to monitor the movements as the news breaks wider.
And in the Pep Guardiola – Next Job stakes the Red Devils have come in to 8/1 – although their Manchester rivals remain hot favourites as short as 1/5.
The 45-year-old has long been linked with the job at the Etihad Stadium after confirming in 2015 that he will be leaving his present club Bayern Munich at the end of the season.
And he was quick to confirm that he would be looking for a job in England: heaping pressure on Manuel Pellegrini, Louis Van Gaal and the then Chelsea manager Mourinho. “I want to experience a new city and I want to work in England. I have several offers from England but I haven’t signed anything yet,” Guardiola said in interview.
“I have an opportunity to work in England. I’m at the right age and I feel it is the right move for me. That is the reason I have taken this decision.”
The Manchester City connection comes about for two reasons. Firstly, Pellegrini will leave the club in the summer in what is perhaps the worst kept secret in football. The Chilean has failed to impress despite spending a small fortune on new talent, with the aim of cementing City as a Champions League contender.
Secondly, two key members of staff who were part of the Barcelona boot room during Guardiola’s successful tenure there are currently employed at the Etihad. Chief executive Ferran Seriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain were both employed at the Catalan giants during Pep’s time there as a player and manager, and they have kept in close contact ever since.
Chelsea are another that have linked with Guardiola’s signature – Roman Abramovich is known to be an admirer of the 45-year-old, and they will need to replace Guus Hiddink at the end of the 2015/16 campaign. Money will be no object of course while the Russian billionaire is in charge, but a lack of Champions League football next season might just be a deal-breaker as far as the Spaniard is concerned.
And so that leaves Manchester United – themselves in a battle for Champions League qualification – as another possible destination. The pressure on Louis Van Gaal has been increasing since the summer, with a distinct lack of entertaining football being one of the key reasons. The Red Devils faithful would be guaranteed that under Guardiola.
The Dutchman is seemingly unperturbed by the speculation, telling the Telegraph that ‘he [Guardiola] wants to sniff the culture of England and I wanted that also. I think that it is very good he wants to do that.’ What impact that could have on his own future at Manchester United remains to be seen.