Does Xavi’s Barcelona exit mean Pep Guardiola’s City reign is nearing its conclusion?

By Guest writer, Fri 02 February 2024 16:18

Does Xavi’s Barcelona exit mean Pep Guardiola’s City reign is nearing its conclusion? 

When Xavi recently confirmed his decision to depart his role as Barcelona manager at the end of this season, most Manchester City fans will have had a sharp intake of breath. With Xavi feeling “liberated” at the prospect of stepping down after a turbulent spell since taking charge in November 2021, attentions have already turned to his likely successor. All eyes are seemingly fixed on one man – Pep Guardiola.

Manchester City and Guardiola are currently embroiled in a tough battle for the 2023/24 Premier League title. Liverpool have shown immense consistency so far this term and Arsenal’s recent results have demonstrated they’re not going away anytime soon. Despite this, City remain the bookmakers’ favourites to win the league. They are priced as short as 4/6 with bet365, which remains one of the top three sites in the oddschecker free bets rankings, based on the strength and transparency of its bonus promotions.

There’s the small matter of a staggering 115 alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules still hanging over City, with potential ramifications in the seasons to come. In addition, Guardiola achieved his final goal of winning a Champions League trophy with the club last season. Therefore, the newly available Nou Camp hotseat could prove highly attractive to the 53-year-old.

Can Joan Laporta coax Pep back to Catalonia?

According to reports via El Chiringuito TV, Barca president Joan Laporta is prepared to “pull out all the stops” to entice Guardiola back for a second stint in charge at the Nou Camp. Guardiola’s first reign was between 2008 and 2012. During this time, he steered the club he served as a player to two Champions League trophies and a hat-trick of La Liga titles. In fact, Guardiola cultivated a Barcelona team that’s now considered one of the all-time greats in the club’s glittering history.

He's enjoyed similar success at the Etihad Stadium too. Five league titles and a maiden Champions League in 2022/23 have cemented Guardiola as one of the Premier League’s most successful managers. Is there any more he can do? Would staying for longer only tarnish his legacy? Those are some of the thoughts almost certainly running through Guardiola’s mind right now.

After news of Jurgen Klopp’s departure from Liverpool this summer, Guardiola was quizzed by reporters on his own future. He publicly declared he was “fine” in the City hotseat and wanted to stick around “for one more year” and “maybe extend” his current contract, which expires in June 2025. Of course, what he says publicly may not be what he feels privately. There’s a reason why the Spanish media believe there’s a chance he will return to the Catalan giants.

Spanish media outlet, Nacional, has already stated Guardiola has “blocked” plans for a new contract with City. Ultimately, it’s hard for City fans to know who to believe. All they can be sure of is that Pep’s full focus is on landing the Premier League again in one of the most competitive season across the top four or five in recent memory.

Potential successors to Guardiola at City

There are two prime candidates who could succeed Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium. Former playing icon Vincent Kompany has enjoyed some success in the English game, steering Burnley to the 2022/23 EFL Championship title. Although his style of play hasn’t translated so well in the top-flight, Kompany remains hugely respected and loved by the City faithful. The Belgian has the innate winning mentality needed to continue Guardiola’s immense work.

The other likely option is Brighton & Hove Albion boss, Roberto De Zerbi. The talented Italian has turbocharged Brighton since joining after a spell in charge of Sassuolo. Despite a largely insignificant playing career, De Zerbi’s innovative tactics have elevated Albion’s squad to even greater heights than those achieved under Brighton’s former boss, Graham Potter. A win rate of over 47% with a team that’s used to being a mid-table outfit is yet another reason why he’ll surely be on the radar of the City hierarchy.

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