Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are almost certainly going to be looking for new clubs to manage in the next half a year.
Where the pair end up will be the focus of endless discussion, debate and innuendo in the months ahead.
Guardiola has been linked with just about everyone. It is telling that not only have Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Paris St Germain all been touted as possible destinations for the ex Barcelona coach, but so have Manchester United and Arsenal, the two major clubs to have had the same manager for over a decade. Or in Manchester United’s case, over a quarter of a century now, since Sir Alex Ferguson became coach. The Scot will leave the helm one day, but few would bet on it being soon, although it says so much for Guardiola that he is considered a replacement for Ferguson.
Were Arsene Wenger to decide to leave Arsenal, it is easy to see how the Spaniard would fit in and take on his role at the Emirates Stadium. It all amounts to an interesting tussle for one of the world’s most talented coaches.
So it was interesting to note Deco’s comments last week, when the former Barcelona man praised Jose Mourinho’s achievements and said that they were better than Guardiola’s. Sure, Deco has an axe to grind. For one thing he is a naturalised Portuguese, and for another he was one of the stars forced out by Guardiola when he took on the Camp Nou hot seat in 2008.
But many do argue the exact point that Deco made – that Mourinho’s achievements are harder and more impressive than those of Guardiola. He has won league titles in England, Italy, Portugal and Spain. He has also won the European Cup with two teams. As many note, he is the closest thing you can get to guaranteed success in the game today. Guardiola is more romantic a choice, but he is also less of a sure bet – he has only had success in his playing and managerial career in the context of the model of continuity and management that is FC Barcelona.
Yet Guardiola should be underrated. He elevated Barcelona from the team he took over in 2008, which was, it is easy to forget, in decline. Xavi was not a first team regular, and Ronaldinho had begun his decline. His attention to detail and ability to harness the team spirit, and obsessive desire to replicate the total football he had been at the heart of under Johan Cruyff, took Barcelona to a level not seen since the great Ajax team of the 1970s.
So the battle over these two managerial titans of the modern game will be the theme of this summer. There will be suggestions that one is on the brink of joining numerous clubs through the weeks and months ahead, well placed sources revealing juicy gossip, rumour and counter rumour. It may just mean that for once, it will be speculation over managers rather than players which dominates the summer headlines.