Manchester City recently announced they have extended the contract of manager Pep Guardiola until the summer of 2023. On the surface this appears to be brilliant news for City, as Guardiola is widely regarded as the greatest manager of his generation and has won two back-to-back Premier League titles in record breaking style. This has meant that in the eyes of the club, the fans, and much of the media Guardiola occupies an unassailable position at Manchester City. However, scrutinising Guardiola’s performance at Manchester City against what he was expected to achieve shows that he has underperformed, and that, on this basis, Guardiola should be considering himself fortunate to have secured a new contract at Manchester City.
The back-to-back Premier League title wins, and the way in which Guardiola achieved them, while brilliant should be secondary considerations when evaluating his job performance. This is because the criteria set for Guardiola when he was hired was not to win the Premier League, rather it was to win the trophy the club’s ‘owners most desired’, and the one that had eluded them, the UEFA Champions League – long considered the Holy Grail of club football. He was hand chosen as the man to finally capture the ‘Holy Grail’ because of the way he had, seemingly, established himself as ‘a Champions League specialist’ while at Barcelona. However, Guardiola has been a bitter disappointment for Manchester City, failing to even reach the semi-final stage of the competition in four seasons at the club – which should be the minimum required from Guardiola as they sacked Manuel Pellegrini for “only” managing to reach the semi-final of the competition. Instead, they have been knocked out in the last 16 and in the quarter finals in three consecutive seasons, most embarrassingly to French minnows Lyon in the 2019/20 season. To add insult to injury this failure comes after the Manchester City board have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in the transfer market on Guardiola signings.
Although, the Manchester City board are not blameless in this situation considering that Guardiola’s tenure at Bayern Munich, where he failed to win the Champions League and equal the 2012/13 treble win of Jupp Heynckes – the man Bayern Munich forced out in order to bring in Guardiola for the 2013/14 season – should have informed them that Guardiola is incapable of winning the Champions League without Lionel Messi; thus making them not hire him in the first place due to their desire to win the Champions League.
Consequently, the Manchester City board, fans and board have allowed the Premier League title wins to fool them into thinking Guardiola has been a success at Manchester City; but he has not been as success as winning the Premier League was not the mandate given to him and there is no sign that Guardiola will win the Champions league at Manchester City any time soon. If we are being kind then it is possible to interpret the board’s decision to only grant him a two-year extension as a sign of weariness from the Manchester City board that he will not deliver or a feeling that his two Premier League title wins means he deserves more time; but after four seasons it is too generous to give him more opportunity to deliver. As a result, if I had been conducting his job evaluation, I would have uttered the famous words from Lord Sugar, “You’re fired!”.