Pep Guardiola could be poised to manage in the Premier League next season after Bayern Munich announced on Sunday he would stand down as their head coach at the end of the current campaign.
The Spaniard is sure to be highly sought-after following hugely successful spells at Bayern and Barcelona before that, with Chelsea one possible destination in the summer after their decision to part company with Jose Mourinho on Thursday.
Manchester City could be another possible future employer, with Guardiola having worked previously with their chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Beguiristain during his time at Barca, while speculation over Louis van Gaal’s future at Manchester United could make a move to Old Trafford a possibility.
Bayern announced that former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti would succeed Guardiola, with the 56-year-old Italian having already agreed a three-year contract to start in the summer.
“We’re grateful to Guardiola for everything he has given to our club since 2013,” Bayern’s chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement published on the Bundesliga club’s website.
“I am convinced Pep and our team are now going to work even more intensively on realising our sporting ambitions, particularly now that it has been confirmed that Pep will be leaving Bayern.
“Carlo Ancelotti has had success as a coach everywhere and he has won the Champions League three times.
“Carlo is a calm, level-headed expert who knows how to work with stars and plays a brand of football rich in variety.
“That is what we were looking for, and that is what we have found. We are looking forward to working with him.”
Guardiola, 44, took over from Jupp Heynckes in the summer of 2013 on a three-year contract and won a Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double at the end of his first season in charge.
His side also lifted the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup that term, but they were knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-finals by Real Madrid.
That is where their European journey ended last season as well with Barcelona getting the better of them, while they were knocked out of the domestic cup by Borussia Dortmund one step from the final.
They did win the Bundesliga again comfortably, though, and they are on course to make it a hat-trick of domestic league triumphs under Guardiola this season, leading second-placed Dortmund by eight points at the midway stage of the season.
The Bavarians are also into the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal and the last 16 of the Champions League, where they will face last season’s beaten finalists Juventus.
Rummenigge told German newspaper Bild: “If a coach leads you to three league titles in three years, then you would be very happy, full stop.
“Of course we would also like to win the Champions League and I would love for Pep and us to do that before he leaves – just like Jupp Heynckes who left after winning the treble.”
On Sunday, Guardiola was returning to his Barcelona home to spend Christmas and New Year with his family.
He will return to Munich in the first few days of January to enter into the final six months of his contract with them, hoping to add to his title collection.
In the meantime there is sure to be plenty of speculation over what his next move will be.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is said to be a great admirer of Guardiola and is on the look-out for a permanent successor to Mourinho, with Guus Hiddink in interim charge at Stamford Bridge until the end of the season.
City’s ex-Barca hierarchy might be a factor which pulls Guardiola to the Etihad, while Manchester United’s poor form has opened up the question of how long they may stand by Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.
Ancelotti has wished Guardiola and Bayern all the best for the remaining five months of the season before he steps into his boots in the summer.
“It’s an honour for me to be part of this great club next season, FC Bayern Munich,” he wrote on Twitter.
“When I heard of the club’s interest, I didn’t want to consider any other offer.
“I honestly wish FC Bayern Munich and my friend Pep Guardiola the best for the current season. I wish a merry and peaceful Christmas and a happy new year to all Bayern’s fans and to all of you.”
Guardiola’s glittering coaching reputation was forged during four incredibly successful years at Barcelona, a club he had represented with great distinction as a player having been part of their so-called ‘Dream Team’ of the 1990s under the leadership of Johan Cruyff.
He won three Primera Division titles between 2008 and 2012 having stepped up from coaching the B team, lifting the Spanish Cup and the Champions League twice, having won the league six times and the Champions Cup once as a Barcelona player.