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MARTIN SAMUEL: Pep Guardiola would have to be crackers to join Roman army

02 Dec 2010 00:27:12

MARTIN SAMUEL: Pep Guardiola would have to be crackers to join Roman army

Did you watch Barcelona against Real Madrid on Monday night? Easy to see why Pep Guardiola would be just bursting to come to Chelsea, isn't it? Stuck working with the finest footballers in the world, playing football from the gods at a club he has adored since boyhood, with the full support of the board and minimal interference. Along comes Roman Abramovich and gives him the opportunity to manage an ageing group of players with increasingly limited resources, while having his staff picked off by an owner who wishes to lecture post-match on football matters. Hey, Pep, what's not to like? Wanted man: Pep Guardiola tussles with Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday night Guardiola would be crackers to leave Barcelona and certifiable to come to Chelsea. It is becoming a madhouse of a club, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, thanks to the dead hand of Abramovich. This season, Chelsea have moved seamlessly into crisis mode when weeks before nobody looked beyond them for the title. Now the talk is of losing Carlo Ancelotti, the best manager the club has had since Jose Mourinho. The idea, floated at the weekend, that Guardiola or Barcelona's director of football, Txiki Begiristain, were next on Abramovich's wish list is almost laughable. If they come, if anyone comes, it will be for one reason only: the money. Abramovich's treatment of his managers and executive staff means he has forfeited the right to expect more. To think of building, long term, would be ridiculous in the circumstances. Notions of commitment, or loyalty, are entirely redundant also. Get in, indulge his whims and spend his money as best you can, then get out again. No doubt that is how Ancelotti views it. He became quite emotional as he explained to his players the unsuccessful battle to keep his assistant, Ray Wilkins, in a job. Now by Ancelotti's side is Michael Emenalo, who is not involved in training the first team, and was rescued by former manager Avram Grant from a life running youth football academies in Tucson, Arizona.   More from Martin Samuel... Martin Samuel: Is that a whiff of panic, Ricky? Dropping Johnson is a gamble 01/12/10 Martin Samuel: Savour a scoreboard as iconic as THAT one from Munich29/11/10 Martin Samuel: Australia slip from swagger to stagger 29/11/10 Martin Samuel: 82 billion reasons why FIFA fools are deluded over 2018 bid28/11/10 Martin Samuel: Is that all you've got, Ricky Ponting?28/11/10 Martin Samuel: A contest so close it will be settled by pure chance27/11/10 Martin Samuel: Stock up on the hot chocolate, this is poised to be a classic26/11/10 Martin Samuel: Happy, smiling and confident: it's the Aussies26/11/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE What is the only tool that could be used to persuade a serious football man to accept an imposition such as Emenalo? Cash. Bound by a contract and well rewarded, it is what keeps Ancelotti at Chelsea, and it is what will tempt his replacement, too. Yet consider the case of Guardiola. One imagines he is not impoverished at Barcelona, and that he has a huge say in the direction of the club. If he leaves, it will be an emotional drain and he would not be human, having been at Nou Camp since a boy, if in moving on he does not have second thoughts, moments of doubt, perhaps a crisis of conscience over whether he will ever feel the same motivation as a manager again. At this time, the attraction of his new club would need to be great. If the decision is solely economic, it may not be enough. And what is the allure of working with Abramovich if not the pay cheque. The famous inquests? Answering to the master at the end of matches? The regular visits to the training ground? The whims that resemble a Politburo cull? We wonder why Guus Hiddink only served his six months as caretaker, when the treatment of Ancelotti makes it obvious. Maybe Hiddink will return one day; or maybe he has already seen enough. After Ancelotti there will only be two options for Chelsea. Either Abramovich appoints a stellar name who is financially motivated, or he gives the job to a novice, who will tolerate interference for a crack at the big time. Say he went for Louis van Gaal, the current coach of Bayern Munich, who also has Ajax and Barcelona on his c.v.. Van Gaal might be suggestible, but it would be with the knowledge that he would either be prematurely sacked and paid off, or he would survive through being successful before the owner grew tired and precipitated the inevitable fall-out. Either way, Van Gaal leaves a wealthier man. This short-term ploy is an attractive proposition for him, but hardly beneficial to Chelsea.  The alternative would be to appoint a young manager such as Roberto di Matteo, now with West Bromwich Albion. As a replacement for the popular Ancelotti he would be a good choice, because he is loved by Chelsea supporters, and clearly gifted. Gaining Di Matteo would soften the blow of losing Ancelotti, and after his impressive performances at Milton Keynes Dons and now West Brom, this would represent his first opportunity to win major honours as a manager. As Di Matteo is untried at the highest level, however, it wouldbe a gamble. Tough job: Carlo Ancelotti Yet, after watching the way Ancelotti has been isolated these last few weeks, how many options exist? Would Guardiola seriously consider throwing his lot in at a club where the manager, plainly, is just another chess piece? He is valued more highly than that by Barcelona, surely? Any speculation around Guardiola's future at Nou Camp invariably centres on the old cliche that he has gone as far as he can at the club. It is funny how this logic never seems to have influenced Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, though. Ferguson knows he is at the biggest and best club in England, because he has a strong squad and the freedom to mould it as he wishes. Whenever he gives one of his speeches in support of the Glazer family, it is inspired by the simple fact that they give him the freedom to run the club. This could also explain why Guardiola is said to regard Manchester United with greater fondness than Chelsea. Then again, if Barcelona offer similar backing why should he grow restless? As the performance on Monday night proved he has further to go yet, because f ive-goal winning margins over Real Madrid are rare; just three since 1950. No team has won, and then retained the modern Champions League, so there is a project that could occupy him until May 2012 at the earliest. And what of winning it again, and again, of deconstructing one great team and building another, as Ferguson has done three or four times at Old Trafford? There are multiple reasons to stay at Barcelona. Alternately, he could sign up to hear Abramovich's deep thoughts on how the game should be played at the end of every match. The money would need to be good, though. Guardiola would require golden handcuffs, not to mention 24 carat ear plugs.  Let's club together and give FIFA hellThere was good news from Zurich, despite the odious sight of decent Englishmen creeping and crawling before the pumped-up, jumped-up mandarins of world football. It came from Andy Anson, the head of the 2018 World Cup bid team, in response to the Panorama expose of corruption among FIFA executive committee members. 'The FIFA ExCo is a brotherhood,' he said. 'If you hurt one, the others feel it.' Wooing Warner: David Beckham has been used to try and sway the influential FIFA ExCo member Who knew? All this time we've been wasting and it turns out the FIFA men are like voodoo dollies. Stick a needle in one and the others share the pain. It's worth a try, at least. Prime Minister David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William are all said to have one-on-one meetings lined up with FIFA ExCo members in the next day or so, Cameron in particular. Surely he can get his hands on some sort of blunt object, a lamp maybe, or a heavy vase. Even if the room is a bit sparse, he must be able to get a finger in the eye, or knee one of them in the scrotum as they pass in the corridor. Of course, after that, it's going to get a little trickier. Club one around the head with a hat-stand and they'll all know about it. From there, they'll be on their guard. We might have to tag team this. Cameron goes in, throws a right-hander, leaves the building. Just as they are getting their bearings back, up comes Prince William, shake of the hand, pleased to meet you, headbutt. Straight to the taxi rank outside, leaving the lobby clear for Becks who, if we're thinking tactically - and what bid team isn't this week - should target FIFA vice-president Jack Warner. The FA has had Beckham installed in a self-contained flat up Warner's rear end for several years now, so he won't suspect a thing. As he moves in for the manly hug, nip him in the knackers and away. Job done. I think all of us, particularly those in the media, will feel pangs of guilt when we look back at all the times when we could have helped deck a FIFA official and sat idly by, the occasions when we could have kicked a FIFA ExCo member in the shins at an official function, perhaps, or run over the foot of a high-ranking, bribe-taking crook as he waited for a limousine outside his five-star accommodation. It is not too late. Now that Anson has supplied this vital piece of information regarding pain transference, I think it behoves us all to hang around the luxury suites at FIFA conventions, jamborees and divvy-ups around the world, armed with a golf club or similar, in an effort to get through to these gentlemen just how impressed we are with their contribution to our great game. Of course, this is precisely the kind of attitude that Michel Platini, president of UEFA, believes will cost England the 2018 World Cup. He would argue that to advocate the assault of FIFA ExCo members, even in jest, reveals a degree of hostility that the various crooks and charlatans in charge of football find abhorrent.  Wary of the brotherhood: England 2018 bid chief Andy Anson They prefer a nicely subservient media better to run their little fiefdoms. To which I can only reply that people died for our right to question authority and, also, who said I was joking? The Panorama programme, as predicted, did not justify the hype. There was no blockbusting expose of corruption around the current bid process (although two FIFA ExCo members were suspended as a result of a Sunday Times investigation, and collusion between the Iberian bid and Qataris widely suspected). Raking over old ground, however, did serve to remind us of the nature of the people we are trying to impress. Anson's foolishness is that he thinks press freedom is just one more thing to be traded in return for favour from men who are the true enemies of football. If FIFA were fair, there would be no decision on hosting beyond that of a specialist technical committee, who would inspect every bid package thoroughly from a variety of angles and then make a collective, majority decision on the winner. There would be no lobbying or meetings, no friendly games in strategic places and the only damage a man like Warner could do would be in Trinidad, or Tobago, and not beyond. It is FIFA who puts in place the potential for corruption by giving its senior members control over a project worth billions. It is almost as if dishonesty was condoned. The details of the Panorama programme may be old hat to journalists or football administrators like Anson, but given their complex nature it will have been new information to the majority of the public, who have a right to know the calibre of the men that our bid team call friends. A brotherhood, as Anson described them, and indeed they are very clubbable. Like seals.  Excuse doesn't workThe most disappointing aspect of the draw at Brisbane in the first Ashes Test this week was the sparse final day attendance at the Gabba. Remove the English contingent and it would have been an empty stadium. Even Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain (right), compared it to the atmosphere at The Oval; which would have been appropriate had The Oval ever been left five-sixths deserted for the fifth day of an Ashes Test. Quickly regaining their braggadocio, however, the locals assured us it was not a case of deserting a sinking ship. Oh no. The Gabba was abandoned because Australians had something called jobs, so they had somewhere to go on Monday. Unlike the British population, ha ha. In which case, Australians are to be congratulated for so gainfully seeking employment over the weekend period. For these 'jobs' of which they speak did not seem to exist on Thursday or Friday, when they thought they were going to stuff the Poms out of sight as usual. So jolly well done.  Aussies can't call tuneClueless, humiliated, a sad, sorry sign of things to come. Oh, it was good to be an Englishman in Australia this week, as the natives trawled through a big book of abject adjectives to describe the performance of their team. Kylie: best song was written by an Englishwoman Usually, after a first Test at The Gabba, that is our duty. Letting the side down, however, was a British cricket correspondent who allowed local reporters to make some pretty ordinary claims on behalf of Australian music, by singing choruses from songs by The Go-Betweens, a Brisbane indie band. We're not having this. Listen up, Australia. Anyone who is any good - Nick Cave, Mary Hansen of Stereolab - flees, Kylie Minogue's best song Can't Get You Out Of My Head was written by Cathy Dennis, an Englishwoman, and your best band ever, The Avalanches, push out one record per decade. That leaves INXS, who are basically a U2 tribute act. You were good at cricket once, we all know that, but pop music? Do me a favour. There's more chance of a Mitchell Johnson hat-trick than a good tune from Down Under.  Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Roberto Di Matteo, Jack Warner, Jose Mourinho, David Cameron, Ricky Ponting, Kylie Minogue, Louis Van Gaal, Roman Abramovich, Carlo Ancelotti Places: Barcelona, Australia, United Kingdom


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