Pep’s sabbatical from the game is keeping three managers on their toes over jobs no longer in their own hands

While Guardiola enjoys his sabbatical in New York, Allegri, Benitez and Mancini face a continuous dilemma over their future writes Aditya Bajaj.
 Aditya Bajaj
 Comment | Europe
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Okay, so this situation is certainly mouth-watering and intriguing, not exactly what you want as a fan if your favourite club is supposedly in some sort of a crisis because whatever the end result, it will take months for the plot to unfold completely and that’s a lot!

So while a certain Pep Guardiola continues to relax on the upper west side of New York with his family having decided to opt for a much earned and ‘rare’ (rare because usually managers today are forced into taking such breaks) sabbatical from the game, his absence and in a way his availability must be giving sleepless nights to alteast three managers who really have no idea what the future holds for them.

Massimiliano Allegri of Milan, Roberti Mancini of Manchester City and Rafael Benitez of Chelsea have one thing in common apart from their respective club crisis and that’s their respective bosses’ vocal fetish for the former Barcelona captain who won 14 trophies with his world beating Barcelona side in turn making him one of the most successful managers in history in just four seasons.

You could have added another Roberto to that list of the anxious, but having passed on the baton to his successor just last week - who is having a tough time dealing with the home fans of a club he had so openly despised while at the helm of Liverpool – he shall not be discussed anymore. But about Rafa we shall, as amongst the three managers in question he has the toughest job in hand.

Contracted as an ‘interim’ manager, the former Liverpool man perhaps reminds many of Brian Clough and the difficulties he faced when in charge of Leeds United. But while the great English manager faced a rebellion from his players, Benitez is being forced to deal with the fans, who are making their feelings known eversince his arrival at Stamford Bridge to steady the ship.

"If Chelsea speak to Pep then I will know. These things happen in football. Some people need a long time to decide, others one minute. I am sure it has happened to me in my career. I am easy with the decision. If he’s got my job then he will call, I am sure of it"

It must have been difficult for him as he already has a lot too much on his plate for until the end of his contract towards the end of the season next year - three things in particular. First, to get Chelsea back to winning ways and once again make them contenders for the Premier League like they were back in August. Second, get Fernando Torres to score like he used to during the duo’s time at Liverpool and third (and perhaps the most difficult) to make a strong case as to why he deserves a permanent tenure despite the looming presence of Roman Abramovich’s romance with Pep.

Now while the first is totally in his own hands riding on the fact that no matter how much you criticize the man, he has won important trophies in his career and is not entirely a loser as he’s made out to be, it will also depend a lot on how quickly fans get over Di Matteo’s sacking and get behind their new manager for the good of the club. The task of getting Torres to score is also somewhat related to the fact that the Spaniard enjoyed the best spell of his career under Benitez but it’s important to note that a lot depended on Xabi Alonso’s presence in central midfield and currently Chelsea have no such options in their ranks, so Rafa will have to somehow make the 50 million pound baby to perform which in turn to some extent will make his first task a lot more easier.

However, it’s the Guardiola issue that is perhaps not in his hands entirely as is the case with Roberto Mancini at City and Massimiliano Allegri at the San Siro who is virtually on life support week in, week out.

As front runners for Pep’s signature next summer (if at all he decides to get back), the three managers all well aware of the fact that come what may, if their employers are successful in wooing Guardiola to take charge of their clubs, they will be left unemployed regardless of what they manage to achieve with their respective clubs. While Abramovich and Silvio Berlusconi have not hidden their pursuit of the star manager to take over, that Manchester City are in the race too is not hidden either as confirmed by the Milan owner this weekend who stated he will try his best but is facing stiff competition from Sheikh Mansour.


"His words on Guardiola are not my problem. It’s not for me to decide who will be the next coach of Milan. I feel flattered that the club is looking for Guardiola as my replacement, seeing as he is one of the best coaches in the world."


It was rather ludicrous of Berlusconi to openly disclose to the media that he is trying hard to get Guardiola to say ‘yes’, when his current manager is still battling to come to terms with Milan’s crisis all throughout this season. Will the club firmly behind Allegri, he knows he won’t be sacked until the end of the season but knowing that he is not really wanted after that, why would he even make an effort to steady a team which is blowing hot and cold with inconsistency every week. After all, one ‘yes’ from the Barcelona manager and he is out!

Roberto Mancini, having failed to help his expensively laid out team to get past the group stages of the Champions League for a second consecutive season, faces the same quandary. While there has been no criticism yet from the Sheikhs and the city faithful given that under him the club sneaked out a Premier League title from under the nose of their fiercest cousins and rivals, just like his Italian counterpart his future depends not on results anymore but Pep’s virtual ‘decision’ to have him sacked by agreeing to continue the multimillion dollar project.

But here’s the dilemma the trio must be going through every night before kissing good night to their loved ones!

Since, Guardiola can depose only ‘one’ of these three, they have to keep continuing to be on their toes every week, delivering results at the same time because the two managers (maybe even three, incase Pep snubs them all) whose jobs will be spared by Pep, will have to show something to their mercurial owners to convince them that they deserve another term and that despite the crisis they are the right people to lead their teams back to glory!


"If you write that maybe next year we (City) arrive with Guardiola or another manager, I don’t know, this is not my problem. Pep is in New York and his problem is the typhoon. I am here, I want to work well and I want everyone to work well because, in this moment, we are ready to improve and build a stronger team."


So basically while their bosses are working nights to win over Guardiola who continues to relax and enjoy his sabbatical with his near and dear ones away from the pressure cooker situation of football, Benitez, Mancini and Allegri find themselves in a very unique and not so comfortable situation of having to continue working as expected despite knowing that their future is totally hanging in the balance on one man’s desire to return to football.

Simply put – Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

As much as it seems fair from Pep Guardiola’s point of view given that he has earned this exclusive position and status amongst all clubs, you can’t help but feel for Rafa, Mancini and Allegri who would want the next six-seven months to fly away in the blink of an eye as they crave for some degree of certainty and stability in their lives, with or without a job. 

What's more incredible is that each of these managers is actually prepared for the inevitable if at all and whenever it happens and is not in denial about his future.  

Well perhaps, that’s what happens, when everybody loves Pep!

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