Seconds after Wednesday’s sacking of Roberto Di Matteo, there was only one name on the lips of Chelsea supporters and at the end of hash tags the world over. Having left arguably the best job – and certainly the best team – in the world, Pep Guardiola was suitably rested and quite possibly ready for that new challenge he’s been talking about.
But that challenge will never be at Chelsea; at least not while Roman Abramovich is in charge.
Because if Guardiola is the man I think he is, he will never join a club whose owner is so trigger-happy.
In the last nine years, Abramovich has had as many managers as he’s had Christmas dinners; some of them among the best in Europe and others less so.
The irony is that the less-so’s have proved the most successful in pursuit of Abramovich’s Holy Grail. Avram Grant – in many ways the most vilified and certainly the strangest of the Russian’s appointments – was one missed penalty away from outdoing the Special One; while Roberto Di Matteo went one better.
One better, but ultimately some way short of the perfection Abramovich craves.
Because it is quite clear now that nothing less than perfect will do. And basking in the afterglow of a successful past, even if that past was only six months ago, is not enough for a man who can buy pretty much anything except constant success.
Why would Guardiola go to a club where the concept of legacy is seemingly anathema to its owner?
To build and to be constantly successful at the same time is impossible. And even with a fully formed team, success is not constant.
Guardiola is perfectly-placed to choose his next job with care. It is no exaggeration to say there is only one club in the world who wouldn’t take him, and that has nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with rivalry.
So every Chelsea fan seeing the word ‘interim’ and dreaming of a tika-taka future under Barcelona’s favourite son should burst their bubbles now. He’s not coming.
There are at least three more likely destinations in England alone.
Pretty soon, there will be very big shoes to fill at Old Trafford, some would say the biggest. And if the Spaniard wishes, he could build atop a legacy rather than start one from scratch. And he would be given time to do it.
Or there’s always Arsenal. Stable, well-run, always in the black Arsenal, who many say play the Barcelona-way already. Even if it is more of a cheap, knock-off version of the real thing.
And then there’s Manchester City, whose recent appointment of Txiki Begiristain as director of football and Ferran Soriano as chief executive, both formerly of Barcelona, suggests they want a hat-trick from the Catalan club should Roberto Mancini’s continued failure in Europe prove a deal-breaker.
With so many potential suitors who have no recent history for rash sackings, why would Guardiola go to Abramovich’s Chelsea?
To put into contrast the harshness of Di Matteo’s departure, we should remember that they aren’t even out of Europe yet. Better Juventus’s result in their final group game against Nordsjaelland and they are through to the last-16; which may be easier than it sounds when you realise the Italians are away to first-placed Shakhtar Donetsk.
Just a few weeks ago, fans and pundits alike were praising the blue’s dynamic attacking play, with Hazard, Mata and Oscar at the centre of it. Scroll through the archives and you will find me saying they were playing some of their best, most creative and free-flowing football in years.
And now a big part of that is gone, replaced by a man once hated among Chelsea fans, just for half a season and just to clean up a mess that wasn’t there three days ago.
The strangest thing of all is that Chelsea had everything in place for the brightest of futures; not just money but a young, exciting team and a young, exciting manager. Maybe they still will in the end. But they are becoming the club for the manager-for-hire, the stop-gap, the man who knows his days are numbered even before the end of day one.
Guardiola is not that man.