Pochettino, Kompany or Zidane: Who will replace Guardiola if he leaves Man City?
The fallout from Manchester City being accused of breaching over 100 financial rules by the Premier League is only just beginning. But perhaps the most pressing, immediate concern for decision makers at the Etihad Stadium is what it means for Pep Guardiola's future.
In the past, their dynastic coach has made it clear that he would walk away from the club if they are guilty of any wrongdoing. While City claim to have a substantial body of evidence that will clear their name, reports have suggested that Guardiola is not likely to see out the remainder of his contract, which is currently set to expire in 2025.
Thus, the unthinkable could be about to become reality. Namely, Man City without Guardiola - the man who has scarcely done anything but win since taking over in 2016.
With succession planning seemingly underway, GOAL looks at who is most likely to take over from the Spaniard in Manchester...
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#8 Mikel Arteta
Don't throw your phones across the room Arsenal fans, we're not saying this is a particularly realistic possibility!
Saying that, City would be fools to not at least sound out Arteta over a potential blockbuster return to the club where he worked as Guardiola's assistant for so long.
This would be the continuity choice, but the Spaniard would take some convincing. Arteta is building something very special in north London and is set to lead his team in the Champions League for the first time in 2023-24.
Would he really burn his bridges for a bigger transfer budget? Surely not.
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#7 Ange Postecoglou
This may feel like a left-field choice, but scratch beneath the surface and City appointing Postecoglou is not so preposterous.
The principle reason for his inclusion in this list is his experience working within the CFG (City Football Group) network of clubs. Before moving to Celtic in 2021, Postecoglou spent three fruitful years with Yokohama F. Marinos - CFG's flagship team in Japan - leading them to a J1 League title in 2019.
Since taking over in Glasgow, Postecoglou's reputation has been boosted considerably, with the Australian helping the Hoops wrestle back Scottish supremacy from Rangers. He is on course to register a second successive Premiership title this season, and his attractive style of play, as well as his propensity to have his full-backs tuck into midfield in possession, would make him a logical Guardiola successor.
The big issue here would be Postecoglou's ability to handle a dressing room containing far higher-profile players than he's used too - while his European record is scratchy at best. Saying that, being able to handle the Celtic pressure cooker as well as he has suggests he may be able to rise to the challenge.
#6 Patrick Vieira
Another manager with FSG experience, former New York City manager Vieira has earned admirers for his work at Crystal Palace in recent seasons.
When he took over in 2021, the Eagles were heavily tipped for relegation, but the Frenchman recruited outstandingly, released the shackles imposed by Roy Hodgson and guided Palace to a comfortable mid-table finish and an FA Cup semi-final.
Things have been more challenging this campaign, but Vieira is still performing above expectations and could be offered a bigger job if he continues along his current path.
He cut his teeth as a coach with City's youth teams before taking over in New York, so is well acquainted with how the ownership like to do things.
It may seem unlikely right now, but a year or so down the line, Vieira may get the call up.
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#5 Thomas Tuchel
Following his controversial Chelsea sacking Tuchel took some time off at a wellness retreat in India. While there he received several calls from clubs - and it is not hard to see why he is so in demand.
The Blues' struggles under Graham Potter suggest the German was pretty hard done by to get the sack, and he would be in contention for any job in European football.
A potential issue is that Tuchel could be off the market by the time City are eventually looking to fill their vacant managerial position. He has been heavily touted to take over at Tottenham should Antonio Conte decide to depart at the end of his current contract, while the Real Madrid, Juventus and Bayern Munich jobs may be coming up soon.
In addition, his infamously combative personality may ultimately put City off.
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#4 Julian Nagelsmann
There are increasingly loud rumblings that the Bayern Munich squad are not quite buying into Nagelsmann's methods.
Die Roten have been far from convincing in the Bundesliga this season with the departure of Robert Lewandowski and subsequent injury to his replacement, Sadio Mane, evidently having an effect on performances.
Off the field, there have been issues too, with captain Manuel Neuer heavily criticising the club and Serge Gnabry causing a stir by attending Paris Fashion Week.
While these issues are beyond Nagelsmann's control, another poor performance in the Champions League could feasibly convince Bayern to prematurely end his stint at the club. Therefore, if City are looking for a 'project manager' the German may be available soon.
Nagelsmann oozes modernity and the totality of his approach could make him the perfect man to lead the club into its challenging new era.
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#3 Zinedine Zidane
Zidane has been out of the management game for some time. He's had offers - most notably from the USMNT, while there was also the France controversy - but for now, he remains one of the hottest free agents out there.
It seems strange, considering he led Real Madrid to three Champions League titles over two spells, but Zidane is scarcely mentioned when discussing the very best coaches on the planet in a tactical sense.
This is likely because it is hard to identify an over-arching philosophy to his approach. There was a consistency to his team selections at Santiago Bernabeu and he managed the dressing room expertly, but he is not as obsessed with shape and approach as Guardiola. Then again, who is?
As a result, hiring Zidane would represent a significant change of direction from City, but you cannot argue with the results he's achieved so far. And should the Citizens retain a squad near-enough strong enough as it is now, he would surely be able to get a tune out of them, as well as increasing the club's profile across the globe at a time when that will be more important than ever.
#2 Vincent Kompany
After an ultimately underwhelming first step into management with Anderlecht, Kompany has built a reputation as one of England's most promising young coaches since arriving at Burnley at the beginning of the 2022-23 season.
With a negative net spend, the Belgian has transformed the Clarets' playing style this season, while still managing to record impressive results. They look well placed to earn promotion to the Premier League and, if they do go up, they will have done so using a brand of football unrecognisable from Sean Dyche's attritional tactics that characterised the club for a decade.
All of this is extremely encouraging, and the fact he is a Man City legend will only help his case.
In short, Kompany is probably the man his former club will turn to if relegation is confirmed. He knows how to succeed in the Championship and also defended the club publicly when the charges were first levelled.
#1 Mauricio Pochettino
It has taken longer than many people expected for Pochettino to return to the dugout following his dismissal by Paris Saint-Germain in July last year.
A romantic return to Tottenham is touted each time Antonio Conte endures a few tricky results, while moves to Everton and Leeds - neither of which made any sense for a manager of his profile - were also mentioned.
Perhaps, the Argentine's patience will pay off, though.
On paper there seems few better coaches out there to continue Guardiola's work - particularly with some sort of rebuild likely round the corner if City are relegated or lose some of their top stars.
Style wise, there are similarities between the two coaches' tactical ethos, particularly out of possession. Pochettino also showed significant pedigree in high-pressure games at PSG - even if the club's trademark European meltdown robbed him of a victory over Real Madrid in last season's Champions League last-16.
And although it would break Tottenham fans' hearts, their sweetheart has likely earned a chance at his ideal job away from the egos that plagued his time in Paris.