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Pep Guardiola Is Leaving Bayern Munich. Is He Heading To Manchester United?

With the Catalan refusing to extend his contract with the Bavarians, where will the former Barca manager be plying his trade next season?

Despite the Bavarian giant’s best efforts, Pep Guardiola is expected to announce soon that he’ll be leaving Bayern Munich when his contract expires at the end of 2015-16. After three seasons that will, in all likelihood, deliver three very comfortable Bundesliga titles and may yet end in Champions League triumph, Guardiola wants a new challenge.

And unsurprisingly for a man who has won eight domestic league and cup titles and two Champions Leagues in his six-and-a-bit years as a manager, the former Barca Svengali’s services are much in demand. In fact, you could say that Pep is as popular with Europe’s elite clubs as Donald Trump is with construction companies in southwest Texas specializing in the erection of 20-ft concrete walls.

So where will Pep’s shiny pate and designer stubble find itself next season? In two words: England, probably. Here’s our rundown of the likely destinations for Pep in 2016-17:

Manchester City (current odds: 8/11)

Manchester City are the strong and long-time odds-on favorites to land Guardiola, and with good reason. City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano both have a long-standing friendship with Guardiola from their time together at Barcelona, giving the light blues a significant leg-up in the race for Pep. The Citizens have pursued the former Barca midfielder for some time, viewing him as a key piece in turning Manchester City from snotty rich kids to bona fide members of European football's aristocracy.

But aristocrats, at present, they are not. And while the promise of significant financial backing and a well-stocked academy could be enough to tempt him to The Etihad, does Manchester City sit comfortably on a roll-call that currently reads Barcelona, Bayern Munich…. ? Could Pep's head be turned by a more storied footballing institution?

Manchester United (current odds: 3/1)

The talk eminating from Manchester United until very recently was that the Old Trafford suits were set to tempt Louis van Gaal into extending his existing contract beyond 2017, after which time heir apparent Ryan Giggs would presumably ascend to greatness. However, the past few weeks have seen the Red Devils' results begin to match the mediocrity of their performances. Talk of player unrest has surfaced once again.

All of which adds credence to reports coming from respected journalist and Barca expert Graham Hunter, who told the BBC yesterday that "If the cards fall his way, his wish is to sample life at Manchester United for a variety of reasons.... he's looked at the Old Trafford atmosphere, the legends and he has felt 'this is right for me’."

Would United dump Louis if they thought they could land Pep? Quite possibly. Remember that Sir Alex Ferguson tried to lure Guardiola to Old Trafford towards the end of his final season in charge of United, only to learn that the Catalan had already committed his future to Bayern.

Would Guardiola come to United? Old Trafford is unquestionably more in keeping with Bayern and Barca, and presents a more compelling opportunity to cement his legacy as one of the all-time great managers. But United are playing catch-up and, just like three years ago, could already be too late to the party.

Chelsea (current odds: 9/2)

Back in August, City probably wouldn’t have expected to face competition for Pep's signature from Chelsea. But the quite extraordinary decline in fortunes at Stamford Bridge means The Special One’s Second Coming is highly unlikely to extend beyond the end of the season, if he even hangs on for that long.

From a sporting perspective, is the prospect of working with a volatile owner like Roman Abramovich an appealing one? Does Pep really want to walk into a Chelsea dressing room in open rebellion and populated by aging players blissfully unaware of their decline? It's unlikely to have Pep’s lips a-smacking.

The delicious irony of having to mop up Jose Mourinho’s mess, however, could be an ego trip too good to refuse.

Arsenal (current odds: 12/1)

Arsene Wenger's contract runs until 2017 and, as sure as an injury crisis at The Emirates, Arsenal will never sack the man in whom they have placed such faith over the last 18 years. 

But imagine this not wholly unplausible scenario: Arsenal win their first Premier League title in 12 years, vindicating Wenger's decades of toil and rigid adherence to style over substance. The Frenchman rides off into the sunset upon the highest of horses, setting the scene for Pep to unleash his pinball passing on North London.

Stranger things have happened (see: Chelsea, 2015-16). 

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