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There can be no denying that the news Pep Guardiola was to become Manchester City manager - worst kept secret though it was - was the outstanding story of the January transfer window.
Guardiola essentially completes the set of the world’s top coaches to ply their trade in the Premier League following Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Jurgen Klopp and yes, even Louis van Gaal, whose reputation appears to have been forgotten.
Just as Mourinho’s first entrance to Chelsea heralded a new era in the Premier League, one gets the impression Guardiola will do the same for a game that appears to be in transition.
Many of City’s more traditional rivals are still searching for their new identity and consistency, while Arsenal appear to be slipping into their very model of consistency.
This has presented an opportunity for Leicester City who have taken full advantage; their win over Liverpool was earned with the vibrancy and energy which has been their hallmark all year. Leicester are now moving into the territory of expectancy from observers, as unfair as that may be - it needed only a glance at the instant celebrations of Jamie Vardy after his impressive double against Jurgen Klopp’s team to see that even he, in the moment, cannot quite believe what is happening.
Leicester may not win the league but what they have done is set a blueprint for anyone who wishes to enjoy success and it is the sort of game plan which will be required to stop Manchester City if they play with the same kind of possession and speed as Guardiola’s Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides.
No-one can deny that Manuel Pellegrini’s City team are the strongest in the country; they really should have done better in their title defence last year, and it is perhaps that season and the club’s inability to make a European statement which has necessitated a change of manager.
The thought of this City team not being at their potential and how they might be if they do is a fearsome one for the rest of the league but who knows quite how that will turn out?
Of course, rumours of City signing Neymar or Lionel Messi will no doubt intensify and one can, for once, see the logic; these are moves that could well happen, particularly with the cash bonanza set to land for the Premier League clubs. If one of those two players is open to a move, then it stands to reason that other top stars will, and for the first time in a number of years the Premier League may start to live up to its ‘best league in the world’ tag.
One of the most obvious consequences of the financial boom to hit in the summer is the sudden strength of clubs like Leicester when it comes to holding onto their star players; no longer will clubs be forced to sell their best assets, potentially ruining their season, presenting an opportunity for almost the first time in a generation for clubs to build and achieve without fear of constantly having their best players cherry picked. Clubs like Spurs, who notoriously reluctantly eventually sell their assets every time it seems they are on the verge of building a team who will challenge on a regular basis, can hopefully keep those players and add to them rather than constantly finding themselves in a cycle of replacing.
It is a changing face of football that Guardiola will walk into as the public figurehead, however unreasonable that may be to present the credit to a man who has yet to even manage a domestic game in this country. There are significant changes that do need to happen structurally when it comes to younger players breaking through but it is heartening that for the first time in over a generation, the league will finally be at a more level playing field. And with Leicester and Spurs, with their collection of home-grown players, among the most impressive teams of the season, then surely that is a good sign for England too.
Wayne Barton has been the football columnist for international broadcaster Setanta Sports since 2011 and has been described by the Independent as ‘the leading writer on Manchester United on the period between Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson’ after numerous books on the club and autobiographies. The most recent are ‘74/75’ with Tommy Docherty and ‘Rise Of The Underdog’, the autobiography of Danny Higginbotham.
Wayne has also worked in Hollywood and across the USA with Gold and Platinum selling musicians and actors from the monster hit TV show ‘Breaking Bad’.