x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Managerial issues mean long summer ahead for Barcelona and Real Madrid

Both coaches of the two Spanish giants are potential targets for the Chelsea job in the summer.

Jose Mourinho, left, and Pep Guardiola could be leaving Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively in the summer.
Jose Mourinho, left, and Pep Guardiola could be leaving Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively in the summer.

Barcelona and Real Madrid fans have been bullish about their lot this season.

Despite losing the clasicos, Real supporters are finally happy because Barca have been usurped domestically and they are going to win the league for the first time in four years as they have opened up a 10-point lead over their rivals with 13 games remaining.

To the north east in Catalonia, fans of the current Spanish, European and world champions consider theirs to be the greatest team in the history of the football and they aim to become the first team since AC Milan two decades ago to retain the European Cup.

That should move a step closer after tonight's second leg tie against Bayer Leverkusen, with Barca leading 3-1 from the away leg.

Yet those same fans become noticeably twitchy when asked about the future of their respective coaches.

Pep Guardiola has so far refused to sign a contract beyond the end of this season, while Jose Mourinho, a collector of trophies who likes to switch from country to country, is far from certain to stay in Madrid.

The intensity of the job, the constant internal and media battles have got to Mourinho, though he has won the key internal war to finally establish his power.

It is a different kind of intensity in Catalonia, but the damage wreaked on Guardiola's hairline in the last four years illustrates the pressure of the job Bobby Robson, the former Barcelona and England manager, once described as being the most stressful in football.

English Premier League side Chelsea are a club to worry fans of Spain's big two, not because of their current team, who sit fifth in their domestic table, but because they might covet their coaches and best players and because they have the financial wherewithal to make it a reality.

Barca fans dread Guardiola going and taking Lionel Messi with him, just as Real fear that Mourinho could take Cristiano Ronaldo if he departs.

Guardiola and Mourinho have both been linked with the Chelsea job and while the West London lifestyle and potential vast remuneration appeals to both, the recent history of successive new managers at Stamford Bridge does not.

One reason both like England is because of the longevity afforded to managers such as Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Rafa Benitez at Lieverpool and Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, a chance to build a legacy.

That's not a luxury any recent Chelsea manager has been allowed to enjoy as the London side search for their eighth manager since 2003.

sports@thenational.ae