Football Features

The winners and losers of Pep Guardiola’s new Manchester City contract

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 21:00, 20 November 2020

Pep Guardiola has signed a new contract at Manchester City this week, extending his stay at the club until 2023.

Guardiola revolutionised City upon his arrival and his influence can be felt throughout the entirety of English football as his approach to the game – a focus on passing, slow build-up play, co-ordinated pressing and an emphasis on movement – has filtered down all the way to the grassroots level. Much of English football is now played in Pep Guardiola’s image.

So the announcement that he’s set to stay in the country is great news for English football. This is already the longest he’s been at a single club, and when all is said and done he’ll have been at City for seven years (provided he doesn’t extend further).

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But who are the winners and losers of this contract extension? We have a look.

Winner: Manchester City

The most obvious winner of this deal is Manchester City themselves, for they have retained the services of the best coach in the world. City structured their entire club to cater to Guardiola’s whims and routinely provide him whatever he wants. At Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the Catalan was always battling internal club politics and a relentless sports media that was hyperfocused on them.

City have protected him from all of that in Manchester, so Pep is happy to extend his stay.

This is very good for City as not only is Pep amazing, but while the squad is very well set-up to play his style of play if he were to leave it would be a tricky transition to another coach because many of the players, particularly at the back, wouldn’t work under a more orthodox manager. It’s unlikely a lesser coach could have done as well as he has without a starting quality left-back.

But now City don’t have to worry about that, because Pep is staying. In fact City and their fans can probably look forward to Guardiola building another great team at the Etihad, as his first raft of signings become veterans and younger players step into major roles.

All of this with the aim of City delivering not only that first Champions Leagues but also winning more domestic titles in order to establish themselves as a genuinely elite side, one of the greats of the game. To do that, Guardiola says, “you have to continue to be there for many years. That is the target.”

And now Pep is staying, it’s a target City will probably hit.

Loser: Victor Font

Barcelona are in something of an institutional crisis this season, but elections are around the corner and could soon get the club moving in the right direction again. The candidate most likely to deliver this salvation was Victor Font, who is insistent that he will be the man to return Pep Guardiola to the Camp Nou.

But this renewal rules out the possibility of that happening, at least as a coach. This will hurt Victor Font during elections as he now has to throw all his focus on Xavi as a potential coach, which is an unknown quantity at the elite European level. Font insists Pep could return in a capacity beyond coaching, but even that now seems far-fetched.

Winner: Phil Foden, Ferran Torres and the kids

For the last few years people have been clamouring for Phil Foden to play regularly for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has always said that Foden will have his time but he has to wait. Now Foden is having a breakout campaign in 2020/21, playing better than ever and looking a top-class midfielder, it seems like Pep Guardiola was right to take his time.

Meanwhile Ferran Torres has been under Pep’s charge for just a few months but has already improved so much that he’s just bagged a hat-trick for Spain against Germany and looks like he’s now going to be a fixture with the national side.

These stories are perfect examples of why these two, and all City youngsters, are going to benefit from Guardiola staying. The coach is so magnificent and skilled at developing young talent that having him still around is going to be fantastic.

Loser: Serie A

Guardiola has won La Liga, the Bundesliga and the Premier League. He revolutionised all three leagues with his presence and changed the paradigm by which football was played in those countries, to the extent that the Spanish, German and English national sides all experienced great eras after he joined, with Spain and Germany winning the World Cup and England reaching the semi-finals the year after Pep set foot in the country.

Serie A was surely going to be the next beneficiary of Guardiola’s tactical genius. The Catalan has already played in Italy, for Brescia and Roma, and his intensely tactical approach would fit perfectly into an already tactical league.

Except now Pep has renewed at City, Serie A will have to wait. Hell, given the extended time he’ll be in England he might not go to Italy at all. He could go straight to international management or maybe even retirement.

Winner: Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp is a great coach, a world-class coach. He transformed Liverpool into a side worth paying attention to, a side that made the Champions League final and only lost because of two poor goalkeeping mistakes. But that season the Reds finished 25 points behind champions Manchester City.

So next season, Liverpool adjusted their approach to do better. And sure enough they won the Champions League, but their 97 point haul wasn’t enough to win the title, because Guardiola’s City got 98 points.

It was like Liverpool had to win every single game to be sure of the title. So in 2019/20, that’s basically what they did. Liverpool played with superhuman focus to rack up win after win after win, all because of the lessons they learned from losing out to City the season before. And in the end they took the title.

This is why Klopp is a winner. Guardiola staying is going to keep the German coach on his toes, it will keep him focused and always improving. There will be no chance of complacency because Klopp knows that Guardiola and City are just around the corner. It’s simple escalation: the better City get, the better Liverpool get as a response. The result? Two titans battling it out for supremacy.

Loser: Manchester United

On the other end of that scale is Manchester United, the club that botched signing Guardiola back in 2013 and then had to watch him go to their local rivals and turn them from noisy neighbours who could rival United into a juggernaut that dwarfed them.

Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City have been better than Manchester United by several orders of magnitude. Had the Catalan left then there would be a chance that United, with some shrewd investment, could rein City in. With the Catalan around there is no chance of that happening, which means that mighty Manchester United will remain the second best side in their own town.

Winner: Leo Messi

In summer 2020, Leo Messi tried to leave Barcelona. He never stated a destination but it was largely thought to be Manchester City for a reunion with his old coach Guardiola, the man who helped him become the best. In the end he decided to stay in Catalunya, but with no contract renewal he will be able to leave for free in summer 2021.

With the Barcelona elections offering the chance of a new beginning in Catalunya, there’s every chance Messi might renew. However with Guardiola now confirmed to be at City for two more years, which is arguably the amount of time you’d expect Messi to remain at the very top of his game, that reunion is once again a distinct possibility.

Whether or not he takes it, the point is Messi now has the choice. Stay in Barcelona with a new project? Or move to Manchester City, reunite with his greatest coach, and wreak havoc on the Premier League?

Anything is possible!