Wonder if this is Pep's poker face?
According to reports coming out of Spain, there is good news on the immediate horizon for FC Barcelona. Specifically, it involves the future of Pep Guardiola and Xavi Torres reports for Sport that Pep will renew his contract next week. Señor Torres even specified an exact day, next Wednesday, the 14th of March. Now, Xavi Torres is one of the most respected Catalan journalists and when he makes a statement of this magnitude, people tend to sit up and take note. Of course, this means that all the rumours linking Guardiola with a move to England, and Chelsea in particular are almost certainly false (how shocking!).
However, the timing of it initially struck me as odd: why Wednesday? Isn’t that a weird day to renew a contract? Why not Monday? How about Friday? Then it hit me. If these rumours are true, then Pep Guardiola truly is a genius. Figured it out yet? Well, allow me to elaborate.
As it turns out, the second leg of Real Madrid’s pivotal UEFA Champions League tie with CSKA Moscow also happens to be taking place next Wednesday. Oh Pep, you never cease to amaze me! Imagine the build-up to the match with the majority of the talk about Pep’s speculated renewal. Will he? Won’t he? Then the pre-match press conferences, what are the chances that Jose Mourinho would be asked about Guardiola’s possible renewal at some stage? How about his own future at Real Madrid?
Guardiola famously declared Jose Mourinho the "f**king boss" when it comes to press conferences, but – if these rumours are true – this goes to show that Guardiola isn’t afraid of playing a few mind games from time to time. One could argue that this next week of fixtures are the most important in Real Madrid’s season. After Barcelona decimated Bayer Leverkusen, the whole world, and most importantly Jose Mourinho knows that the Blaugrana are not ready to be written off yet. Does he rest people in lieu of that vital Champions League match, risking that his team drop points away to Real Betis or does he risk his starting players knowing that he cannot afford for Barcelona to gain momentum?
It is far from concrete that Real Madrid will progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but Guardiola’s potential renewal has thrown another spanner into the works for Real Madrid. If they slip up at any stage in the next week, they will have conceded the momentum to Barcelona and might just implode. How would this squad deal with elimination from the Champions League anyway? Whatever the case, with Pep Guardiola looking increasingly likely to renew in the immediate future, Real Madrid’s chances of long-term success just decreased significantly.