Manchester City: Pep Guardiola’s exit conundrum has ended a bleak week for champions

Before the news broke about Manchester City’s decision not to renew their brief interest in Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola was contradictory.

On the one hand, Guardiola suggested that the world’s best players tend to go to the club they want.

On the other hand, he said he only liked players who would run for his team until they dropped.

News that Pep Guardiola may be leaving Manchester City in 2023 has become a footnote

News that Pep Guardiola may be leaving Manchester City in 2023 has become a footnote

Cristiano Ronaldo's deal to join Manchester United has rocked the football world

Cristiano Ronaldo's deal to join Manchester United has rocked the football world

Cristiano Ronaldo’s deal to join Manchester United has rocked the football world

Ronaldo doesn’t fit either sentence in any way, but it was such a day at City and such a week it was.

It started with City, still hopeful that Harry Kane would join them, and ended with Guardiola suggesting on Friday that the England captain would see his career at Tottenham.

Amid all that was a 24-hour tango with Ronaldo and his agent, Jorge Mendes, before Guardiola sat down behind a microphone on the club’s training ground on Friday to row on his own cues back to a Brazilian business conference on Wednesday that he would leave City when his contract expires at the end of next season.

Harry Kane has decided to stay at Tottenham and made a goal-rich return to the starting lineup

Guardiola has now waived claims he will leave City for a break at the end of his contract

Guardiola has now waived claims he will leave City for a break at the end of his contract

Guardiola has now waived claims he will leave City for a break at the end of his contract

The developments regarding Ronaldo this week have been extraordinary. Maybe that famous billboard on the way to Manchester will be painted red after all.

Whether City abandoned Ronaldo or vice versa is largely irrelevant. A move to United certainly takes them firmly to the brink of the title race at a time when their neighbors don’t really have a reliable goalscorer to call on at all.

Nevertheless, once the dust settles on all this and when the transfer window closes on Tuesday, it is Guardiola’s future that may remain the most important. Players come and go, but managers like Guardiola only pass you once.

So what exactly are his intentions, he was asked on Friday. “I’m so happy to answer this,” Guardiola said.

“I don’t think about leaving after two years. I may be able to leave in two months if the results are not good or the organization is tired of me or I can’t handle the players better. I can leave in three months, as I can leave in five years.

“What I’ve said in my Zoom connection with the people in Brazil is that I’m going to take a break after my stint at Manchester City, that’s for sure.

The departure of Sergio Aguero now leaves the national champion without a permanent goalscorer

The departure of Sergio Aguero now leaves the national champion without a permanent goalscorer

The departure of Sergio Aguero now leaves the national champion without a permanent goalscorer

United now have three reliable goalscorers as Ronaldo joins Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood

“At this point I have no reason to leave. I have not said that after two years I will end my period in Manchester City.’

The problem for Guardiola – and indeed for City and their squad – is that that is exactly what he said mid-week.

The exact quote ESPN Brazil was given was: ‘After seven years on this team, I think I’m going to take a break.’

When his own words were presented to him on Friday, he did not waver from his slightly modified script. “I explained the answer,” he emphasized.

“I’ll say seven is a lot of years, but I’ve explained it. Maybe my English is not perfect. But I repeat the answer. I don’t know what will happen.’

Whether City’s supporters and players choose to sign Guardiola at face value after Friday’s exchanges is largely unimportant.

City's biggest problem, however, is how to replace Guardiola - despite their recent transfer troubles

City's biggest problem, however, is how to replace Guardiola - despite their recent transfer troubles

City’s biggest problem, however, is how to replace Guardiola – despite their recent transfer troubles

The issue of the 50-year-old’s departure is now one that will follow him this season and the next.

As for this one, it seems the challenge has only gotten harder. On Friday, Guardiola suggested his team should improve on last season’s title-winning efforts by playing better, defending safer and being better at set pieces.

He said he would ‘find solutions’ within his team to the puzzle of operating without a real number nine, adding that his players should complement this by running ‘as if it were the last minute of their lives’. That’s a departure from the attempts to buy Kane.

In terms of effort, such an intense play has long been part of the Guardiola credo and it was hard to see Ronaldo fit into that.

Nevertheless, ahead of Saturday’s game with Arsenal, City are not where they would have liked to be in terms of buying and selling.

Kane is not coming and neither is Ronaldo. As for Guardiola, despite his protests, he appears to be approaching his last few rounds at the Etihad and that will present City with a recruitment problem far more significant than anything that has happened in the past seven days.

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