UNCERTAINTY over who will be in charge at England’s three biggest clubs next season deepened dramatically last night after German giants Bayern Munich won the race to hire sought-after former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United had all made enquiries about appointing the 41-year-old, while continental superpowers Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan also courted the Spaniard.
But Bayern completed a huge coup yesterday by confirming mounting speculation that Guardiola had agreed a three-year contract believed to be worth around £25m to succeed current boss Jupp Heynckes, starting on 1 July.
The former Spain midfielder, who won 13 trophies in four years in charge at Camp Nou, in which the club became widely acknowledged as the best in the world, has been on sabbatical in New York since resigning last summer.
Guardiola’s keenly-anticipated decision will be seen as a blow for English football, which has been overshadowed by the achievements of Spain’s top clubs lately, and a major boon for the thriving and voguish Bundesliga.
“Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful coaches in the world,” said Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “And we are sure that he can make not just Bayern but all of German football shine.”
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had been desperate to land Guardiola next summer, but now must decide whether to make interim manager Rafa Benitez’s contract permanent or search for an alternative.
Despite leading them to the Premier League title last term, Roberto Mancini is under pressure at City, while Sir Alex Ferguson’s advancing years have exacerbated United’s need to identify a successor.
Arsenal were also linked with Guardiola, although uncertainty over their qualification for next season’s Champions League and Arsene Wenger’s contract until 2014 undermined that possibility.
Bayern came within a penalty shoot-out of being crowned European champions in May, instead losing in dramatic fashion to Chelsea, and currently boast a commanding nine-point lead in the German top flight.