The Lead

Peter Berlin writes in Sports Illustrated today that, despite Pep Guardiola’s apparent disdain for Chelsea,

“Guardiola should take the job, insult and drop John Terry and refuse to pick Fernando Torres. Guardiola wouldn’t need to try to lose; he’s probably incapable of that. With the unbalanced and turbulent squad he would inherit, he will inevitably suffer some embarrassing early defeats. Abramovich would lose patience. Guardiola could be back in Manhattan by Christmas. His reputation would be untarnished; everyone in soccer knows that Abramovich doesn’t know soccer. His bank balance would be swelled by tens of millions of pounds.”

He writes this with his tongue so far in his cheek it’s bursting through the other side in a pulpy mess, but it’s not hard to envision this outcome at any club he’d be tasked to take over.

Paolo Bandini in his Serie A column for the Guardian spoke of how AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi spoke of the possibility of replacing the under-fire Massimiliano Allegri with Pep:

“Guardiola? Who wouldn’t want him? We have even spoken about it with Allegri,” Berlusconi said. “If [appointing Guardiola] was possible we would look into it. Anyone would try to do so if they were presented with such an opportunity … For now we have Allegri. [But] for the future we are having a look.”

Again, this is the old Pep as Managerial Boogeyman. But the blithe assumption that Pep would be a world-beater no matter where he ends up isn’t just touted by angry chairmen, but by the press as well, which has been silent on the very real possibility that Guardiola may not fare as well at a club that he hasn’t been with since childhood.

Consider Barcelona’s record this season under Tito Vilonova: three points clear in top spot and eleven points ahead of Real Madrid in the La Liga standings. One could say “this is Pep’s squad,” except what other kind of fashioning was going on besides giving the gifted crop of La Masia grads space to shine? Should Barcelona cruise to a La Liga title beyond Pep’s reach last year, will that make Tito the next Sir Alex Ferguson?

We know nothing of what Guardiola’s capable of at a squad of disparate players cobbled together by the usual random machinations of the transfer window. We certainly don’t have any hard evidence to pinpoint where Xavi’s, Iniesta’s and Messi’s brilliance ends and Pep’s hard decisions as coach begin (although his tactical superiority in the El Clasico meetings spoke a great deal for him). And even if Pep is well-versed in Barca’s killer 4-3-3, what does he do when faced with a squad not nearly as technically-gifted, incapable of making his sheet music live off the page?

None of these questions have been raised in any meaningful way from any quarters, allowing Guardiola to ratchet up his inevitable starting salary post-”sabbatical” even more. Well, here’s Counter Attack knocking off 50p.

England

FA may investigate anti-Semitic comments made by West Ham fans against Spurs’ fans.

Benitez confident he can win over fans.

Brendan Rodgers not interested in band-aid solutions for his team.

Everton sights set on former Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon.

Carlos Tevez faces driving ban.

Italy

Milan beat Juventus on a controversial penalty.

Berlusconi squashes rumours about Guardiola replacing Allegri.

La Liga

La Liga weekend in review.

Mourinho’s frustration directed at everyone.

Barcelona field all La Masia players against Levante.

Germany

Cristian Nyari sums up week 13 in the Bundesliga.

Dortmund likely won’t cash in on Lewandowski.

Bit and Bobs

Spartak Moscow fire coach.

Hypothetical match/line-up between Catalonia and Spain.

Serbian player scores a terrible own goal and lifts the opposition to victory.

How a Frenchman changed United’s fortunes.

Video Interview: Reporter won’t stop reminding Rafa Benitez of the booing.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.