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Contract cat and mouse games at the Nou Camp

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Phil Minshull | 17:51 UK time, Wednesday, 9 February 2011

So Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has finally persuaded Pep Guardiola to put pen to paper and remain as the club's coach for another season until the end of the 2012 season.

As I write this blog, the deed has not been formally done but, according to the club website: "The signing of the contract will take place in the next few days."

Barcelona fans will no doubt have smiles on their faces as they amble down the Ramblas but I cannot help feeling there is a lot that has been left unsaid by both the club and their coach.

The first and most obvious question is, why has a coach of Guardiola's stature and success only signed for one more year? Was he offered a longer-term contract and declined?

In December, club sources were telling the Spanish media that Guardiola was going to be offered a five-year contract and people close to the coach were suggesting that the former Barca captain would be a happy to sign a three-year deal.

By comparison, when Jose Mourinho signed with Real Madrid in the summer it was for four years.

There has been no comment from either Barca president Sandro Rosell or Guardiola so far that has provided any answers to those questions.

In the past Guardiola has always said he does not believe in long-term contracts for coaches "because football is unpredictable and always changing."

However, there was always the impression, and one that was confirmed late last year when the idea of a long-term deal was being floated, that Guardiola was carefully watching which way the wind was blowing behind the scenes at the Nou Camp.

Pep Guardiola

In the past Guardiola has always said he does not believe in long-term contracts for coaches. Photo: Getty

After his unprecedented triple triumph for a Spanish club of taking the Champions League, La Liga and the Spanish Cup in the 2008-09 season - his first year in charge of the club - his relationship with then president Joan Laporta deteriorated.

He also knew that presidential elections were due at the Catalan club last year and was clearly waiting to see whether there were any last minute surprises, although Rosell, the pre-election favourite, duly emerged triumphant.

The gales that had been gusting quite strongly for a year or two died down at the start of this season but a little breeze seems to have reappeared in the last week or so.

Would this not have been the time for Guardiola to sign at least a two-year deal to both cement his involvement with the club and also underline his commitment to Rosell?

If Guardiola does not sign another contract extension in the summer, speculation will surely start all over again about whether he will commit himself for one more year mid-way through next season or leave the club at the end of June 2012.

Obviously, the discussions about his future, both in public and inside the Camp Nou, have not done any damage to the Barca dressing room.

Barca lead La Liga by seven points over their eternal rivals Real, who they face in the Spanish Cup final on 20 April, and are also in the last 16 of the Champions League, in which they face Arsenal in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium on 16 February.

However, just because there were no major internal upheavals this time, that doesn't mean that there won't be next time around.

An editorial in the Barcelona-based sports daily El Mundo Deportivo on Wednesday argued, with just a hint of the content being dictated by a Barcelona director: "It is a formula that has worked once so now it does not make sense to change. The year-to-year contract allows you to be the master in the short-term of your workforce."

What about the medium-term and even long-term planning is the obvious question already being asked by many astute Spaniards, Barca fans and the non-committed alike, despite the jokes that the latter aspect may be a contradiction in terms at many European football clubs.

Money is also an issue at Barcelona.

Rosell was elected on a mandate of getting the books in order. Do you recall how he said in the summer that the club had been unable to pay the players' wages on time?

The Camp Nou

The recent speculation does not appear to have damaged the spirit at the Camp Nou

There is a prevalent suspicion that Rosell may be playing hardball over Guardiola's wages while the Barca coach might also want to keep his options open for a little longer and has inserted a few 'exit clauses' into his new deal, especially if a Premier League club is interested in him.

Guardiola is believed to earn only about 1.5m euros a year in fixed salary at the moment, a throwback to his promotion from looking after the reserve team, although the bonus scheme he has had put in place means that he is probaly making approximately three times that amount.

It is not a bad salary compared to what most of the world earns but it is little more than a third of what his counterpart Mourinho gets.

During the last few weeks, there has been widespread speculation in Spain and elsewhere about who has been talking to Guardiola's agent Jose Maria Orobitg and what cash they could put on the table.

Inter Milan, especially after Rafa Benitez's sacking and Leonardo's appointment, were widely linked with Guardiola concerning a move across the Mediterranean during the summer ahead.

Inter Milan chief executive Ernesto Paolillo, as soon as the announcement came from Barcelona that they had secured the services of Guardiola, was quick to tell the Italian media: "He is not an object of desire for Inter. We are happy for him, but we have Leonardo who we will hold on to tightly,"

The well-known Shakespearian phrase: "thou protesteth too much," sprung quickly to my mind when I saw these comments on Wednesday.

Inevitably, in this era, there have been rumours of interest from the Middle East interest, with the Qatari FA supposedly ready to make Guardiola the highest paid coach in the world.

If Guardiola does see out his current contract then another plausible destination for the Barca coach in the summer of 2012 would obviously be the Spanish national team, with Vicente Del Bosque expected to stand down after Euro 2012.

Guardiola would not even necessarily have to take a pay cut as the Spanish federation can probably find the cash to meet his current salary, their income having risen substantially after their World Cup final triumph.

He could potentially end up as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor at Manchester United and, as he speaks good English, who knows which other top Premier League clubs might be making overtures this time next year.

It is not too difficult to develop scenarios whereby he could arrive at Arsenal, Chelsea Liverpool or Manchester City in the summer of 2012.


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