London, November 20: For now, at least, the future of Pep Guardiola is secure. The Manchester City manager has signed a new two-year contract that will keep him at the Etihad Stadium until 2023. There is no denying Guardiola has brought spectacular success to City, but few would deny there have been some concerning signs in the early stages of the 2020-21 season.
If City ever seriously considered a future without Guardiola, then a glance across town should have given them pause for thought: if you’ve got a proven winner, cling to him for dear life. Alex Ferguson’s long-dreaded retirement in 2013 gave Manchester United a headache for which they are still seeking a cure. Pfizer and Moderna would have struggled to find a remedy for the Red Devils, and City desperately did not want to find themselves in a similar spiral to that which has essentially neutralised the threat of their neighbours. Which leads us to Thursday’s declaration that Guardiola is staying sky blue for another two seasons, despite last term’s failure to win either the Premier League or Champions League.
That failure is a loose definition of what many would consider immense success: second in the Premier League, quarter-finals in Europe and an EFL Cup win would not amount to anything approaching disappointment for most teams, but the standards at City have been set sky high. Long gone are the days of praying for a miracle under Frank Clark and Joe Royle, of the club falling for the diminishing charms of King Kev and Sven. It is A-list that City want and A-list they have throughout their ranks: in Guardiola they have a coach – a talisman – they dare not lose.
Who would they target if Guardiola left? Mauricio Pochettino, who improved Tottenham without taking them to a trophy before losing all momentum? That sounds like an Old Trafford appointment. Julian Nagelsmann? Nuno Espirito Santo? Brendan Rodgers? Bookmakers have Patrick Vieira high on their list. Send a doctor; I’m convulsing here. City remain set up to conquer England and Europe under Guardiola, alongside wingmen Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, and now the team have to go out and achieve that, this season and in the next two. Is Guardiola untouchable? No, but City are in the midst of the most successful era in their 140-year history. Why risk losing the man still held up by some as the world’s best coach? Why risk somebody else having him?