THE BLOG

Why Pep Guardiola Is Not the Only Candidate to Replace Manuel Pellegrini

27/10/2014 17:36 GMT | Updated 27/12/2014 10:59 GMT

On this occasion, there is no urgency. There is no immediate pressure to bring in a replacement, no vacancy at the top of the managerial tree that needs filling as soon as possible. For the first time in a while, Manchester City can take their time.

When Mark Hughes was sacked in December 2009 after a succession of desperate draws and having been unable to tighten an increasingly leaky defence, Roberto Mancini had already been lined up to take over. It was mid-season and those in charge at the club felt that no time could be wasted before bringing in the fiery Italian.

Three and a half years later, when Mancini's relationships with the board and players had evaporated to the extent that Joe Hart and David Silva, among others, would have asked to leave the club had Mancini remained, it was two games before the end of the campaign and the decision had already been made to appoint Manuel Pellegrini. Again, as the club headed into the summer break and the endless possibilities of the transfer market, the idea was to avoid having a power vacuum. Swift action was taken.

This time, however, with Pellegrini securing two trophies in his first season at the club and having introduced a calm, tranquil air to proceedings, there is no hasty search for his successor.

It should be added at this juncture that the Chilean's job is not under threat. Even if, as could well be the case, City are knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage and fail to retain their Premier League title, Pellegrini is likely to remain in control.

As has been seen time and time again under the benign ownership of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the shrewd leadership of Khaldoon Al Mubarak and Ferran Soriano, there is a long-term plan and although they would evidently wish the club to progress each season, there is no appetite for change every time something does not quite work out.

Nevertheless, there will come a point in the not too distant future when plans have to be made to replace Pellegrini. His contract runs out at the end of next season and whilst there is undoubtedly the option of extending it should domestic success continue and European exploits improve, it is not outlandish to suggest that he could see out his three years as manager and then leave.

If that were to happen, the common belief is that there is only one candidate to step into the breach: Pep Guardiola.

The reasons behind the potential appointment of the former Barcelona boss are plentiful and obvious. Most significantly, the presence at City of Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, both of whom have intimate knowledge of Guardiola through their time in Catalonia, will always be cause to believe that the current Bayern Munich man could head to Manchester.

Begiristain and Guardiola are reported to speak on a weekly basis with each other, yet their friendship was not enough to convince the latter to turn down Germany for England when he was deliberating his future after leaving Barcelona. Having already approached Guardiola once to lead City, it does not take a great leap of imagination to envisage the same happening when the Spaniard's contract runs out in Germany, conveniently, as with that of Pellegrini, at the end of next season.

Indeed, Guardiola's style of management is not conducive to a lengthy stay at one particular club. He is an intense character, putting so much energy and passion into his coaching that after a while he is so drained by his exertions that a break is inevitable. After four years in charge at Barcelona, he revealed his decision to walk away, stating, "I have always wanted short-term contracts. I have given everything and I have nothing left and need to recharge my batteries." His success is obvious - thirteen trophies in four seasons in Spain and now titles and widespread acclaim in Germany - but his demanding nature, both of himself and of his players, does not encourage an extended spell in one place.

Yet while Guardiola may seem the obvious favourite to replace Pellegrini if both men leave their roles in the summer of 2016, it would be foolish to overlook another candidate, one who currently lives just under the noses of the City hierarchy.

If you were to look beyond the name of Pep Guardiola and instead analyse why Begiristain and Soriano placed their utmost faith in an inexperienced manager to lead a team of stars, it may offer a clue as to another possible future City boss.

After finishing his playing career in Mexico, Guardiola was appointed coach of Barcelona B in 2007. He was only in charge of the side for one season, but under his stewardship they secured promotion via the playoffs from the Spanish fourth division. At the end of the campaign, such was the impression Guardiola had made, he took a few giant leaps forward and replaced Frank Rijkaard as manager of the first team. That was it. One season was enough to display his qualities.

Now change 'Barcelona' to 'Manchester City' and turn 'B' team into 'EDS' and it should become apparent that at their disposal, Begiristain and Soriano have an identical option.

Patrick Vieira has never managed a competitive first team fixture, yet if those who have the power to make football decisions at City replicate their Barcelona plan of action, he could very well take his place in the spotlight soon enough.

For those not au fait with the Frenchman's situation, he has been Head Coach of the Elite Development Squad (EDS) - reserves, in old money - at City for the past year and a half. Away from the limelight, Vieira has been allowed to learn as a coach, free from the pressure of competitive, results-based Premier League football and, truth be told, anyone who has watched the EDS in action cannot fail to have been impressed by the work Vieira has done.

In his first season, he led his charges to the top four of the Barclays Under21 Premier League, oversaw progress to the final of the Premier League cup competition and took the City U19s to the quarter-final stage of the inaugural UEFA Youth League. This campaign, his squad currently lie top of the Premier League table and in contrast to the first team's struggles in the Champions League, Vieira's youngsters have recorded three wins from three in the Youth League.

More than results, however, it is the style of football which has caught the eye and offers a glimpse of his managerial abilities. There is a clear philosophy, similar to that of Guardiola at Barcelona, of retaining possession, of playing out from the back, of refusing to panic under pressure. There is fluency in the way his sides play, a determination to keep the ball on the ground and pass and probe for a way through.

Impressively, all of this has been achieved despite a regular turnaround of players. Vieira has seen many of his young stars from last season head out on loan and he has watched his squad decimated by international call-ups and injuries, yet the quality of football on show has not diminished. The personnel can change, but his way of playing - and ability to attain results - does not. That is testament to his coaching and ability to instil confidence into players.

Understandably, there is an aura about Vieira. Having won everything in his playing career, he gains the immediate respect of his players yet he is not the permanently intimidating figure some may believe. You only have to witness the way in which he laughs and jokes with his young charges before a game or see the smile on his face at half-time as a cheeky substitute tries to nutmeg him to realise that he has something special about him. He may only be managing reserve team players in front of a handful of spectators on a midweek afternoon, but whatever 'it' is, he has it.

The arguments against throwing him into the first-team cauldron are clear. Supporters would like him to be proven, to have a record of signing players and of coaching a team in meaningful action, but as was seen with Guardiola in Spain, a gamble is sometimes worth taking.

What is clear is that Guardiola will be in high demand whenever he decides to move on from Bayern Munich, but the irony is that for precisely the same reasons he was given the opportunity to manage Barcelona, he may well end up getting overlooked for the job at City.