Pep Guardiola’s wrong - there’s plenty left for him to achieve at Man City

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We look at what could keep the Manchester City manager motivated to stick around at the Etihad.

Not much could have dampened the mood around the Etihad after Sunday’s Premier League triumph, as Manchester City beat West Ham United to wrap up a record-breaking fourth consecutive title.

But reports that Pep Guardiola is considering his future and could walk away in a year’s time were unwelcomed, to say the least, less than an hour after the final whistle blew.

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Admittedly, those reports and alluring headlines didn’t quite tell the full story of what Guardiola actually said. Yes, he did claim that he is ‘closer to leaving than staying’ when his contract expires in 12 months, but one could easily conclude that the City boss’ inference was that after eight years at the Etihad, he’s unlikely to spend another eight at the club.

That’s no surprise, and something Guardiola has said before. He also added that ‘Right now I am feeling I want to stay’, before claiming he would talk to the club next season about his future.

But it is becoming abundantly clear that the 53-year-old is running out of new objectives after his trophy-laden stint in Manchester. “I had that feeling last season. After Istanbul I said: ‘It’s over, there’s nothing left’,” he said. “I start to think that no-one has done four [league titles] in a row, why don’t we try? And now I feel it’s done, so what next?”

The Champions League was his holy grail and Guardiola finally won that trophy with City last season, while the prospect of four in a row has been the guiding light for the past year. Now, what’s left to achieve? Which new mountains can he scale? Well, there are quite a lot, it turns out.

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Sunday’s win moves Guardiola up to second place in the all-time list of top-flight title-winning managers in England, alongside George Ramsay and Bob Paisley on six first-place finishes. Only Sir Alex Ferguson has won more (13) and it’s unlikely the incumbent City boss will stick around for long enough to overhaul that particular record.

If those sorts of personal accolades keep Guardiola going, another Carabao Cup success would certainly appeal to him. The Catalan is tied with Brian Clough, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho for the most wins (four) in the competition, so success in 2024/25 would see him hold the record outright, although Guardiola did claim last year that another Carabao Cup ‘wouldn’t change my life’.

But team successes will always reign supreme in the manager’s mind, ahead of personal landmarks. Further records beckon next season for a man who has guided City to the highest points tally, biggest winning points margin, most wins and the highest number of goals in an individual season.

Sunday’s win over West Ham United was City’s 35th game in all competitions without defeat, a record for a Premier League side. The outright English record stands at 40 - achieved by Nottingham Forest in 1978 - and is well within the Blues’ sights.

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So too, is the longest winning Premier League run of 18 matches, which was set by City in 2017 and equalled by Liverpool a few years later. The champions ended 2023/24 on a run of nine wins, so are halfway to a new milestone. Then there’s an unbeaten league season, only once achieved by Arsenal 20 years ago in the Premier League, and never once managed by Guardiola in his 15-year managerial career.

But it’s silverware rather than records that are more likely to keep the fires burning, so the maiden expanded Club World Cup offers a new frontier for Guardiola, even if that is 13 months away at this stage. Likewise, a second treble really would cement the former Barcelona coach as one of English football’s greatest.

And if the treble doesn’t whet the appetite enough, there’s always a quadruple of the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Champions League, that is often prophesied in the winter months but has never before been attained.

Liverpool came close two years ago but fell away in the final weeks of the campaign. It’s that sort of unrelenting determination that drove Jurgen Klopp to be Guardiola’s greatest competitor, and the German’s departure has sharpened minds to the fact that in the not-so-distant future City could also be forced into a managerial alteration.

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Guardiola referenced how Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, City’s closest rivals in the last two seasons, are ‘here to stay’. Whether the Gunners can offer a genuine challenge in the years to come will also have a huge bearing on Guardiola’s drive and focus - he’s referenced on several occasions how Klopp pushed him to greater heights. Perhaps fending off the fresh threat Arsenal pose would be motivation enough, leaving Klopp as the only man to nick top spot from City in their pomp.

Either way, a new season, with new players and ever-evolving tactics are also likely to intrigue Guardiola, who was faced with, and overcame, a new challenge to incorporate Erling Haaland two years ago. “For me it’s important to have new players. I would like to have the players I started with at Barcelona, but time goes by and new players mean I have to seduce them,” he said about the introduction of the Norwegian striker into his well-oiled machine. “It’s a challenge – they come to play with us, I cannot delude them.”

Finally, for a man fabled with youth production, Guardiola has the perfect tools at his disposal to implement a ‘Class of ‘92-style integration of City’s talented youngsters. Phil Foden, Cole Palmer and Rico Lewis are the shining examples of what can be achieved, but plenty more have emerged from the club’s youth ranks in recent years and moved elsewhere.

City’s peerless FA Youth Cup-winning side are primed to progress into first-team football in the coming years and Guardiola has routinely referenced how detractors unfairly credit transfer spending as the reason for his success, despite the club’s net spend in the last five years lagging behind that of Aston Villa and Newcastle United.

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But a team comprising several underage graduates would quash those murmurs and could provide the ultimate long-term challenge for a manager who has blooded many teenage proteges this season. Guardiola habitually praises the club’s structures and model, and no team in the country look better equipped to create a title-winning side comprised largely of academy players.

Having assembled the 100-point side and the treble-winners, a third iteration at City may go down as Guardiola’s greatest achievement of them all. If he sticks around for long enough, of course.

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