Rich football clubs are like magpies. They’re irresistibly drawn to shiny things and in the current football firmament, the shiniest thing of all is Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona manager may be enjoying his self-imposed exile across the Atlantic but his radiance still catches the eye even from the States.
Chelsea of course have already been transfixed by his lustre. Manchester United are also considering replacing their incumbent jewel in the crown with the Spanish gem and, according to despatches from Fleet Street, Manchester City are now contemplating a move to secure his sparkle.
Sheikh Mansour can certainly afford it but just over four years since he roused City from its slumber, it would be the most disastrous decision of his reign.
The temptation to seduce Guardiola and divorce Roberto Mancini after what has been an underwhelming season so far is obvious but money can’t buy you love and as Roman Abramovich will testify, it doesn’t even guarantee silverware.
I was convinced that City would become a circus to rival even Chelsea when Mansour opened his chequebook in September 2008. There have been moments – Carlos Tevez’s petulant sulk and Garry Cook’s inept stewardship to mention two – but on balance City have avoided many of the pitfalls of ‘new money’ that have blighted Stamford Bridge.
The faith they have shown in Mancini has already been rewarded. Two seasons of failure in the Champions League are no doubt frustrating but for the Abu Dhabi United Group to abandon their patient policy now and go down the Chelsea root of managerial madness would be an irreversible mistake.
The irony is Guardiola may be amenable to an approach from City rather than Chelsea because the job is not yet perceived as a poisoned chalice but that is not reason enough to dispense with Mancini.
The old argument, citing Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, that success only comes with continuity is sound enough but City’s choice is more fundamental. Their decision will display whether they’re serious about building a real club or whether City are to become the expensive play thing of Mansour as his head his turned by a glistening new coach.
So far, the City project has been the former. Mancini and club captain Vincent Kompany have lent the club an air of dignity and decorum that is conspicuous by its absence elsewhere and while there’s no argument that City bought the title last season, the soul of the club so far remains largely intact.
Jumping on the Guardiola bandwagon would change all that. Not only has Mancini delivered the FA Cup and the title in less than three seasons, he has earned City a begrudging respect from the rest of the football fraternity and laid solid foundations for the future.
Guardiola himself is not the problem. It is what his appointment would represent and that is a perceived short cut to football Nirvana. Such is the hype that now surrounds the Spaniard, it seems all he has to do is sign on the dotted line and his new club will find itself lifting the Champions League trophy playing the most outrageously sexy football imaginable but that of course is merely hyperbole.
I hope City hold their nerve and stick with Mancini. Chelsea are a cautionary tale of what can become of a club that loses its moral and managerial compass and as yet, City have avoided such pitfalls. Appointing Guardiola would take them dangerously close to the precipice.
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