After months of speculation, well-sourced reports in German and Spanish news outlets have revealed that Pep Guardiola will not extend his contract at Bayern Munich beyond the end of the season, with the Guardian stating that an official announcement will confirm the Catalan's departure next week.
The news will inevitably come as blow to the Bayern playing staff, who have enjoyed enormous success under Guardiola over the last two seasons, but while everyone at Saberne Strasse will remain focused on wrapping-up a fourth consecutive Bundesliga title and winning the Champions League until May, the club's board must now turn their attentions to appointing Pep's successor.Here follows a list of three of the outstanding candidates for the job.
- Roger Schmidt (Bayer Leverkusen)
Since establishing his coaching credentials at part-time German sixth division club Delbrücker SC between 2004 and '07, Schmidt has risen via Preußen Münster, Paderborn, and Red Bull Salzburg to become regarded as one of the brightest young managerial prospects in Europe.
Like Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Germany coach Joachim Low, Schmidt is a disciple of the high-energy Gegenpressing football pioneered by Ralf Rangnick at the turn of the millennium, and the 48-year-old corresponds to many of the hallmarks of the young, dynamic modern coaches made vogue by Guardiola himself at the Camp Nou.In two seasons managing in the Austrian Bundesliga, Schmidt succeeded in crafting one of the most exciting young teams in Europe on a limited budget, maturing players such as Sadio Mane (Southampton, courted by Manchester United) and Kevin Kampl (Borussia Dortmund, now Leverkusen) into targets for Champions League-level clubs across the continent. He won the league title in 2014, and was extremely unlucky not to have advanced to the quarter-final of the Europa League in the same season after destroying Ajax 6-1 on aggregate in the last 32.
Upon assuming control of Leverkusen in the summer of 2014, Schmidt quickly succeeded in reducing the squad's age profile and instituted the kind of pressing system that has proven so effective in the Champions League over the last decade. The club finished fourth in the Bundesliga in 2014/15 and impressed in forcing Atletico Madrid to penalties in the last 16 of the Champions League. A 3-1 aggregate defeat of Lazio in August, meantime, saw Schmidt ensure Bayer a fourth consecutive season competing in Europe's premier club competition.
While results have been inconsistent at the start of the 2015/16 term — Bayer have only won seven of 16 Bundesliga fixtures and exited the Champions League in the group-stage — Schmidt's side are only two points off fourth in the domestic league and came within 10 minutes of beating Barcelona in the Camp Nou in the Champions League before holding them to a 1-1 draw in Germany.
Schmidt is clearly a manager of enormous potential: he possesses a clear tactical vision, excellent communication skills and has a proven ability to develop young players (the progress of Julian Brandt, Wendell, Hakan Calhanoglu, and Karim Bellarabi attest to this). Put in control of a club of Bayern's financial resources and playing staff, it is conceivable that he could eclipse Guardiola's achievements.
That said, Schmidt is unproven at the top-level of the European game and his lack of medals would be conspicuous in a dressing room almost exclusively populated by Champions League and World Cup winners.
The Guardian's Rafael Honisgstein hinted at the start of the season that Schmidt was being monitored by the Bayern executive as a potential replacement for Guardiola in the summer; however, Leverkusen's inconsistency over the last five months may well have convinced the Bavarians to hold off on appointing the Kierspe native until he gains winning experience at a bigger club
- Carlo Ancelotti (Unattached)
As the only coach to have won the UEFA Champions League three times (most recently in 2014) and reached four finals, the Italian possesses an outstanding track record of success at the elite level of European football over 15 years and would command the instant respect of a decorated and experienced dressing room.
Furthermore, the affable Italian's experience with having worked under notoriously difficult club executives such as Silvio Berlusconi at AC Milan, Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, and Florentino Perez at Real Madrid will serve him well in terms of dealing with the near-ceaseless stream of criticism that is directed at Bayern managers by former players regardless of results (even Pep has had to endure this).
But while Ancelotti's European pedigree is beyond reproach, his domestic league record — one Serie A, one Premier League, and one Ligue 1 since assuming control of Reggiana in 1995 — is weak relative to the profile of the clubs that he has managed, and there is a suspicion that the 56-year-old's laissez-faire managerial approach may jar with a squad accustomed to Guardiola's intense tactical preparation.
- Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)
Like him or loathe him, the 52-year-old's record of having won eight league titles, four domestic association cups, and two Champions Leagues in four different countries over the last 13 years already marks him out as one of the greatest managers in football history, and he possesses a proven (perhaps unique) ability to walk into the dressing room of most any elite-level club in Europe and be a success.
There is little reason to suspect that Mourinho's effect at Bayern would be any different and the peripatetic nature of the Portuguese's coaching career is such that a spell working in the Bundesliga — adding a fifth country to his growing list of conquests — would probably seem appealing
Still, appointing Mourinho entails obvious risks.
The Lisbon native has never stayed at any club longer than three seasons, and his role in destabilizing Chelsea this season provides clear evidence that the friction he generates as a means of motivating a dressing room inevitably become destructive. Indeed, the former Barcelona executive (now at Manchester City) Ferran Soriano cited Mourinho's tendency to exhaust his squads after two seasons as the reason why he would never consider appointing him.
"Mourinho is a winner," Soriano observed; "but in order to win he guarantees a level of tension that becomes a problem."
The fact that Bayern followed Barcelona in appointing Pep in 2013 and fought tooth and nail to keep him as coach beyond the summer makes it seem probable that the Bavarian club's boardroom will share Soriano's view of Mourinho.
[Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images]