Greatest sporting moments of 2015
Big waves, big wins and a big year for firsts, these are the greatest sporting moments of 2015.
Pep Guardiola has freed himself up for a move to the Premier League next season with the confirmation from Bayern Munich that he has refused to sign a new contract and Carlo Ancelotti will succeed him as the club’s head coach.
Rather than sparking a scramble for his signature, however, there is a growing expectation in football that Guardiola is poised to take over from Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City next summer.
Manchester bound?: Now that his time at Bayern Munich has a closing date, Pep Guardiola may end up coaching Manchester City. Photo: AP
City have strongly denied claims that a deal has been struck with the Spaniard, 44, who has told close friends that his next destination will be the Premier League, having managed so successfully at Bayern and, before that, Barcelona.
Guardiola is then thought to want to pursue a career as a national team coach – he harbours an ambition to manage Brazil – or even retire by the age of 50.
Pellegrini signed a contract extension at City in August – taking him to the season after this – but is acutely aware that Guardiola’s availability will raise further questions over his future. Pellegrini also knows that Guardiola has a good relationship with former Barcelona executives Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, now chief executive and director of football at City.
Both Chelsea, who are searching for a full-time successor to Jose Mourinho after appointing Guus Hiddink until the end of the season, and Manchester United have also pursued Guardiola in the past. However, United have given no indication that they will replace Louis van Gaal, despite them struggling badly for a win. It has been suggested that the club may even have doubts about Guardiola’s suitability to the English league.
If true that would appear a curious stance from the club although it is also possible that they know the Spaniard’s future plans are already decided and are therefore distancing themselves.
At the same time Guardiola has spoken warmly about United in the past while there is also an admiration for Arsenal – although there are no indications whatsoever that Arsene Wenger might be willing to step aside.
City represents a cash-rich club with the potential to help push forward a new super-power in European football – where there will be autonomy for the right coach as opposed to the control exerted at Chelsea.
It could also be that Guardiola is considering another season-long sabbatical, although he has not shown any signs of the burn-out that led to his departure from Barcelona in 2012.
Bayern had set a deadline of this weekend – before the winter break in the Bundesliga – to ascertain Guardiola’s intentions after he stalled on all attempts to force him to sign a contract extension.
Given the German club’s growing realisation that Guardiola was not intending to stay, they decided to open talks with Ancelotti, who had been considered by Chelsea as a possible replacement for Mourinho.
Bayern’s new boss: Carlo Ancelotti will assume control of Bayern Munich next season. Photo: AP
However the 56-year-old Italian, who has previously managed Chelsea and has been out of work since being sacked by Real Madrid last summer, had made it clear he preferred to move to Bayern and negotiations over a three-year contract were swiftly concluded last week, leading to Sunday’s announcement.
“We’re grateful to Guardiola for everything he has given to our club since 2013,” Bayern’s chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, said in a statement published on the Munich club’s website.
“I am convinced Pep and our team are now going to work even more intensively on realising our sporting ambitions, particularly now that it has been confirmed that Pep will be leaving.
“Carlo Ancelotti has had success as a coach everywhere and he has won the Champions League three times. Carlo is a calm, level-headed expert who knows how to work with stars and plays a brand of football rich in variety. That is what we were looking for, and that is what we have found. We are looking forward to working with him.”
It will be fascinating to see, however, if Guardiola’s decision and the early announcement of Ancelotti as his successor has any effect on the coach or his players, especially as they pursue the Champions League trophy which has so far eluded him in Germany with two semi-final defeats.
Guardiola returned to his home in Barcelona on Sunday, the day after the final Germany league game before the winter break, and after formally informing Rummenigge of his decision. Guardiola will return to Munich in the first few days of January to enter into the final six months of his contract with Bayern.
Ancelotti took to social media with a message on Twitter after his appointment was confirmed. “It’s an honour for me to be part of this great club next season, FC Bayern Munich,” he wrote. “When I heard of the club’s interest, I didn’t want to consider any other offer.”
The Telegraph, London