Courtesy FC Barcelona
Pep Guardiola left Barcelona fans in fearful anxiety earlier this year when he refused to sign a long-term deal with the club, eventually settling on a one-year contract extension which will keep the 40-year-old in charge of the blaugranes until the end of the current domestic campaign. But the question remains: why is one of Catalunya's most passionate sportsman reluctant to commit his long-term future to a club which he has lived and breathed since he joined the youth squad in 1984?
Guardiola has an unprecedented affinity and loyalty to Barcelona, having made 263 first-team appearances in his playing career and guiding the 'B' side to promotion in 2008 before taking the privileged reigns at the Camp Nou when he succeeded Frank Rijkaard later that year.
This tie between manager and club is often found lacking in managerial jobs worldwide, where managers are often keen to snap up long-term contracts which provide them with a backing of compensation in case they are not performing to the best of their potential. Consequently, boards of directors are often left red-faced when they are forced to part with their millions having given an under-performing, half-committed manager the sack early into a five-year deal after the club has failed to live up to expectations.
In an interview in October, Guardiola explained his reasons for renewing his contract annually, affirming that he wanted to be fully committed to his deal and could only achieve this on a yearly basis. "I work better if I think I have the freedom to decide my future. Being tied to a contract for a long time makes me anxious and that can make you lose your passion."
Whilst 'the boy from Santpedor' (the Catalan village where he grew up) is clearly happy with his role at his boyhood club, it is inevitable that one day he will look to extend his managerial career and take on a new challenge abroad or at an international leve. Indeed, Guardiola has expressed interest in managing in the Premier League and has been touted as a potential candidate to succeed either Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United or Arsene Wenger at Arsenal in forthcoming seasons. Alternatively, he has been linked with the position of Spanish national coach, with Vicente del Bosque expected to step down from his position after the 2012 European Championships.
And although Barcelona's backroom situation seems to be stable at this point in time, history has shown us that presidential campaigns can often be quite turbulent times and Guardiola would not want to find himself in a situation which undermines his authority. Indeed, by pledging his future to the club on a yearly basis, Guardiola could in fact be interpreted as negotiating his contract tactically. It allows him to insert clauses into his contract which maximise his power and make him the master in the short-term of his workforce. If Guardiola was to sign a lucrative long-term deal, the board of directors would know that his future was secure and could potentially take business matters into their own hands without the input from the manager. Guardiola simply does not want to become one of those managers whose destiny does not lie in his own hands; he demands to be at the forefront of Barcelona Football Club.
Football is an "unpredictable and always changing" business, according to Guardiola. "In my profession you have to make decisions depending on what is happening. There will be a day when I no longer feel like being with my players, just as they will not feel like being with me, and at that moment I will have to go find others to make those plans for the future."
With Barcelona chasing a fourth consecutive league title and aiming to become the first side to retain the Champions League trophy since its inception in 1992, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and fans will be hoping that that day is a long way away and that they can keep hold of their resolute tactician a litte while longer yet.