What Comes After Pep Guardiola?
We are 2 years away from possibly saying goodbye to the best manager Man City has ever had, but what can come after that? What are the options for his replacement, and what are the implications that come with it? Let's discuss it.
If Pep does leave in 2023, that will be 7 years that he'll have spent in charge of Manchester City, 7 years leaving his print on the club, and 7 years making fine decisions that led Man City to become one of the best clubs in the world (if not the best).
How can City lead with his departure? Let's start with the players.
It's not a surprise that most of our players have joined the club because of the possibility of playing under Pep Guardiola, so what will happen when he leaves? I believe some might want to stay because they've grown an affection for the club (Bernardo Silva for example is a Cityzen through and through), but there are others that might consider leaving the club and experiencing new opportunities, like playing in La Liga or in the Bundesliga. Khaldoon and Txiki must get their checkbooks ready and start renewing with the players from this season until then, so they get tied to the club and stay when the new manager arrives. Man City must keep their key players for the rebuild in 2023.
When 2023 comes, I believe that we'll already have some names on a list for a potential signing, so let's look at mine and analyze how City's future might look like:
Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
This is a very controversial opinion, but for me, it's one of the easiest choices for our next manager. Let's think about it: Arteta was under Pep's wing for a couple of seasons before taking off and becoming Arsenal's manager. During that time he learned everything he could, and also spent most of his time with the players, which most of the key ones will still be at Man City by the time Pep leaves. At Arsenal, he's already shown that he has what it takes (tactically), but he lacks the quality in the team he manages, but under star players like Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, etc., Arteta can do big things. The board knows what he's capable of, and I believe that Pep will tell the board to sign Arteta after he leaves.
Erik Ten-Hagg (Ajax)
Among supporters, I believe this is the favorite name. Everyone loves this man, not only for what he does at Ajax but mostly for the way he makes his team play the game. His tactic style is very close to being 'Pep-Ball'. His teams run the game, possession style and moving as a whole up the field until they find a way through on goal, just like Pep's. But I have my doubts on if he's ready to manage in the Premier League. Only the future can tell what will happen, but if Man City end up with Ten-Hagg, I believe they'll be just fine.
Zinedine Zidane (Unemployed)
What does City want and need most right now? That's right, the Champions League trophy! Who is the man that won 3 Champions Leagues in a row? Zinedine Zidane. But what's the problem? His way of playing the game is the opposite of what we have right now under Pep Guardiola. While at Real Madrid, Zidane played a more direct type of game, get the ball forward > get in the area > shoot > repeat, that's what it was. Did it work? Perfectly, that's why he won 11 trophies in 4 years, but he also had one of the best teams that ever played the game, with a deadly front three, so it's quite difficult to judge Zidane. One thing that I like about him, is that he seems to really get to his players. When he was managing 'Los Blancos', everyone seemed happy while playing and that's so important, because when you are happy doing what you love, everything usually goes better. I don't know if by the time Pep leaves he'll still be available, but if he is, he won't be a bad choice. He's not my first option but I wouldn't be mad.
Vincent Kompany (Anderlecht)
To me, he is highly unlikely to come right after Pep, but I do believe Kompany will end up managing City in the future. Vincent gives me Zidane vibes, he can come back to a club like a legend and get his hands on the team and do a good job. There's no need to discuss how big his role is in the locker room and managing players, he's been doing that for years, but as a manager, he still has a bit to prove. The only way I see Kompany managing City in the next 5 years is if the club gets in a streak of bad results. If that happens, then we might see the Man City board doing what Real Madrid did, and get a club legend to show their players the spirit of the club and what it's like to represent the badge. Even though that's always a gamble (and we've seen that with Ole at Man United), I believe that in that specific situation, Kompany would do a good job.
This is a complete shot in the dark, but I have a feeling that Xavi can be the next Pep Guardiola. The way Al-Sadd (his former club) played under his management was unreal, the tiki-taka was beautiful, but we still need to see what he'll be able to do at Barcelona and against strong clubs, in a difficult league. If he can prove himself in La Liga and the Champions League, while playing tiki-taka, then I'm fully behind our board signing Xavi. There's not much I can add about Xavi for now, but let's see what the future will bring.
I could talk about a few more names, like Brendan Rodgers, Luis Enrique, Patrick Vieira, etc., but I really don't think those will be the ones chosen.