If Pep Guardiola remains in charge of Manchester City next season, he will be entering new territory.
A fifth season at the Etihad would make his tenure as manager there the longest of his career after four seasons in command of Barcelona and then three at the helm of Bayern Munich.
Despite the critical view that he never sticks around in any job for very long, he is little different from most of his rivals at the elite level of his business. In this era, at least.
Carlo Ancelotti did two seasons at Chelsea, two at Paris St Germain and a season-and-a-bit at Bayern Munich during his tour of the biggest clubs around.
Zinedine Zidane did two-and-half years in his first stint in charge of Real Madrid before returning in March last year.
Antonio Conte put in three seasons at Juventus, two in charge of Italy’s national team and two more managing Chelsea before pitching up in his current post at Inter Milan.
Then there is Jose Mourinho, who is the top-level coach with the most pronounced reputation for relatively short stays in hit seat.
After a touch over three seasons in charge of Chelsea first time around, there were two years at Inter and then three more seasons at Real Madrid.
Then came a little over two more seasons back at Chelsea followed by two-and-half campaigns at Manchester United before he took on his current post at Tottenham.
So if the current stirring of speculation that Pep’s reign is coming to a close turns out be correct, it wouldn’t be out of keeping with the trends of the game at the top in 2020.
Ladbrokes price it at 8/11 for him to still be in charge on the opening day of the 2020-21 season while its evens (1/1) that he will be gone.
The idea is surfacing because he is enduring the worst league season of his career with City beaten six times already – including last Sunday’s 2-0 setback at Tottenham.
Has Pep already got one foot out the door?— Bookmakers.co.uk (@bookmakers) February 6, 2020
📈 Successors are already being discussed with the former Spurs man leading the market#mcfc fans: Who would you like to see take over from Guardiola?#thfc#epl#guardiolapic.twitter.com/nwWIcidjK0
A third successive League Cup win is in sight for him in the final against Aston Villa on March 1, while City also have a Fifth Round FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday.
But with Liverpool 22 points clear in the Premier League, Guardiola’s season may now be judged on the massive Champions League last 16 date against Real Madrid.
City are favourites to win the competition and if they get past a Real team which has been resurgent lately, it could be the mental breakthrough which propels them all the way to Istanbul next May.
But if they fail, Guardiola is sure to face a barrage of criticism because he has yet to take City past the last eight.
Champions League Outright Odds
At Bet365 and William Hill, City are 4/1 to win the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Coral and Betfred rate Liverpool second favourites at 9/2 to retain the prize they won last June. Paris St Germain are placed third in line across the board.
It can seem as though Pep’s time in England has passed in a flash already because it has taken place amid such a whirlwind of success, dazzling football and tactical revolution of the like never seen here before.
It’s all been so thrilling, uplifting, captivating, controversial, heated and intense that it can feel as if it has whizzed by.
Five major honours including two league titles have come through the door at City since his arrival.
But perhaps the failure so far to make a major impact in the Champions League has added to a perception that the most demanding work of all hasn’t really got started yet.
Guardiola insists that he will honour his contract which runs until 2021 – and could stay on longer.
Yet it is not often that everything ends so neatly in the hot-house world at the top of the game these days.
Barcelona, for one instance, are on their fifth coach since Pep left them after winning 14 trophies in four years including the Champions League in 2009 and 2011.
It is not just managerial regimes which are becoming more and more short-lived across the game, either.
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No Guarantees In Modern Management
In England at least, the dynastic reigns of the top clubs at the peak of the game are not set in concrete.
No sooner did Guardiola make City the truly dominant force, culminating in the historic Treble of last season, than along came Jurgen Klopp to run away with this season’s title race – and that after winning the Champions League last year.
Last season, City were the first team to retain the title since Manchester United completed a trio of triumphs in 2008-09.
Chelsea had managed back-to-back wins in Mourinho’s first two seasons in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
They also won in 2010-11, 2014-15 and 2016-17 but could never again nail down a repeat success.
🚪 Pep's step leading to City exit?— Bookmakers.co.uk (@bookmakers) February 4, 2020
🔵 Odds are getting shorter on the Manchester City manager leaving his post before the start of next season
📈 He's now EVENS to be gone before the first game of next season#mcfc#manchestercity#mancity
Meanwhile, the command established by United under Alex Ferguson has long since evaporated while it is years since Arsenal were considered serious contenders.
And only now, 30 years on from their last title are Liverpool the leading power again – although it will take much more success before they match their feats of the 1980s. And in such an intense and demanding role, will Klopp be around for enough years to oversee such a dynasty?
Against such a ferociously competitive backdrop, it would have been remarkable if Guardiola had been able to keep City so pre-eminent.
True enough, he has been massively hampered this season by the knee problems suffered by his best defender Aymeric Laporte in the wake of the departure of Vincent Kompany.
It has led to a fragility at the back.
What Has Gone Wrong At City?
New signings such as Joao Cancelo and Benjamin Mendy have yet to make a major impact. And Raheem Sterling has lost form at a critical time while as impressive as David Silva and Sergio Aguero remain, they will soon require replacing.
Pep also lost one of his right-hand men on the coaching staff, Mikel Arteta, to Arsenal.
City appear to have been lacking in commanding figures on the pitch this season.
After reports that the players told him in the wake of the defeat by Spurs that he was tinkering too much with his line-up, the sense of certainty and purpose which City once transmitted is no longer apparent.
It is one thing getting to the top. It's harder than ever to stay there, as City have discovered this season.
Those Liverpool fans already convincing themselves that they are about to rule for years to come should take note.
Meanwhile, it could be argued that a triumph in the Champions League with City would make the perfect platform for Guardiola to take his bow and move on.
Just as powerfully, though, the case for him staying on and carrying out a re-building job is a compelling one, too. Whether they rule Europe or not this season.
It is not as if City lack the cash for it. But it requires more than just money to build a great team.
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are running riot at the moment but there are plenty of challenges left – instant and long-term – for Guardiola to prove himself all over again.