Pep Guardiola on Tuesday said that the lure of coaching in the English Premier League was the reason for his decision to leave Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich at the end of this season.
“I want to coach in England,” the Spaniard told a news conference — his first since the announcement on Dec. 20 of his departure and replacement by Italian Carlo Ancelotti.
“I am still young and I need new challenges,” said Guardiola, who turns 45 years old later this month.
The former Barcelona coach has since been linked with Chelsea after Jose Mourinho was sacked, and also with Manchester City, whose coach, Manuel Pellegrini, is under contract until 2017.
“I have this possibility to go to England. It is the right time,” Guardiola said. “The only reason I am not renewing my contract is that I am looking for a new challenge. I have several offers from England, but I have not signed anything yet. If I were 60 or 65, I would have stayed, but I think I am too young. I need a new challenge.”
“It was a dream, it is a dream. I am very grateful to Bayern for this huge opportunity,” he added.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has reportedly tried to lure the Spaniard to Stamford Bridge in the past and is on the lookout for a permanent successor for Mourinho, with Guus Hiddink in interim charge until the end of the season.
However, City are the bookmakers’ favorites, with Guardiola having previously worked with City chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Beguiristain during his time at Barca.
As for Manchester United, Louis van Gaal’s immediate future seems secure, but they could possibly be tempted to replace one former Barca and Bayern boss with another.
Pellegrini has had to deal with recurring speculation linking Guardiola with his position throughout his tenure, but he was unwilling to comment, saying: “I do not have a reaction about that or feelings on other managers. It is a question I answered two weeks ago when I said no more about that.”
Guardiola quit Barcelona in 2012, despite being the most successful coach in the club’s history during his four-year reign. In January 2013, he signed a three-year deal, worth a reported 22 million euros (US$24 million), to coach Bayern from July that year.
Bayern, already a dominant force, having won the treble in 2012-2013 of the UEFA Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal under Jupp Heynckes, soon became almost unbeatable at home. This season, Bayern have lost only two of 26 games and swept five trophies in the past two years, but the most desired, the Champions League, has so far eluded Guardiola during his time in Germany.
Bayern are currently eight points clear of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga with their next game to come at Hamburg SV on Jan. 22, while they face Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League.
“I hope that [Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge and the staff understand my decision. I would be sorry if they were disappointed by my choice,” Guardiola said, adding that he would discuss the subject “for the first time” with his players during their winter training camp in Qatar, which started yesterday.
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