Well-respected journalist Guillem Balague has today stated that Pep Guardiola is set to announce his departure from the club tomorrow in a press conference with Sandro Rosell. Talking on TalkSport, Balague seemed adamant that Guardiola will quit the club tomorrow, although he did mention that the club have offered him a blank cheque, not just in financial terms but allowing Pep to specify all the terms of renewal. However, in spite of that, Balague says that all signs indicate Guardiola will announce that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season.
This isn’t the best news in the world, but I have to say this wouldn’t be the worst either. Guardiola has guided this club to three league titles and two Champions Leagues, a feat that may never be replicated by a manager at this club. Under Pep, Barcelona have also played some of the best football of all-time; we have been blessed to be able to witness this era first-hand. However, there is no escaping the fact that Barcelona have not been at their best this season. Another season under Pep could just as easily bring total failure as it could a treble, perhaps it’s best if Guardiola stepped down now rather than wait a year and risk his achievements being overshadowed by a trophy-less season?
On the other hand, this wasn’t all Balague had to say, and when asked about the situation the club was in, he mentioned that this summer will see a complete reshape at the club in terms of playing personnel. While mentioning the obvious "Barca are looking for a centre-back and a striker, perhaps a different kind of midfielder too" Guillem said that to do so, Barcelona will have to sell some players. Then, pretty nonchalantly, Balague dropped Dani Alves’ name into the equation. This is where I start to find holes in his information.
First off, why Alves? Not only has the Brazilian been a valued member of this team for as long as Pep, but more importantly, unlike Guardiola he is showing no signs of slowing down. Fatigue? Perhaps, but that’s a team-wide concern. Not only that, but Alves remains the only right-back exclusively contracted to the first team squad meaning his departure (coupled with Eric Abidal’s continuing absence) would signal a permanent change to 3-4-3. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the 3-4-3 the formation that Pep Guardiola pioneered at the club?
Hiring a new manager to fit the club’s ideals would be difficult, especially when that manager would be replacing Pep Guardiola, but then forcing that manager to switch to 3-4-3 by selling the star right-back? It doesn’t add up.
Then you factor in Alves’ impact in the dressing room, the Brazilian seems like a jovial guy, easy-going with a decent sense of humour, but crucially he is a winner. Not only that, but he is a winner that is one of Lionel Messi’s closest friends. Considering that this club discarded Ronaldinho and Deco just to ensure Messi had the best conditions possible, it is incredibly hard to fathom that the same club would sell one of his friends and the man who has gifted him the single most assists of anyone on the team, just to facilitate some spending.
While I respect Balague hugely, and his coverage of La Liga is up there with the best in the business, his track record with news is varied at best. For example, he stated on multiple occasions that Andre Villas-Boas was 100% staying with Chelsea, and just a month ago he was on the same radio station saying that Guardiola was staying for another season. All in all, his words carry a certain gravitas, but ultimately, he hasn’t brought anything new to the table aside from the absurd rumours about Dani Alves. Mundo Deportivo broke the story on Pep’s supposed decision while the rumours of a sabbatical have been flying about for some time now.
Maybe Pep will leave tomorrow, maybe he won’t but whatever the decision, we have trusted this man for the past four years and I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to stop tomorrow.