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Why Chelsea must consider Swansea boss Rodgers ahead of 'shielded' Guardiola

If Pep Guardiola has made clear to Roman Abramovich that he's not interested in the Chelsea job - then he's done the Blues owner a big favour.

After the Andre Villas-Boas experiment, Abramovich, were he to land the Barcelona coach, would be heading down the same road.

In his four years in charge, Guardiola has transformed Barcelona into a title winning machine. Of the 16 trophies they've gone for during his reign, Guardiola has won a staggering 13 of them.

But its this record which has shielded him from the sort of challenging experience he would face at Stamford Bridge.

AVB's rise to Chelsea was meteoric. From assisting Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan, in the space of two years he had saved Academica from relegation, won a treble with Porto and landed himself the Chelsea job. Everything for AVB was up, up, up. He'd never experienced a low period and when things came crashing down at Chelsea, he didn't have the necessary skills-set to handle it.

At Barcelona, Guardiola has had the same experience. Even now, in a two team Liga and with his side ten points behind Real Madrid, Guardiola has suffered zero criticism from his local media. His connection with the club means he's escaped all scrutiny - no wonder Jose Mourinho is so exasperated when, with his Real now champions-elect, he is still heavily criticised by the local Madrid press.

For all his success, could any adviser to Abramovich honestly say Guardiola - without question - could handle the pressure of the Chelsea job?

The Catalan press even shielded him from speculation over his unsigned contract. The heat is now being turned up - as the plea from Barca communications chief Toni Freixa to the media to stop questioning Guardiola about his deal shows. But barely a month ago it wasn't like that.

Back-page news in the Madrid press reporting Guardiola's answers about praise from Sir Alex Ferguson and the possibility of moving to Manchester United or Chelsea was actually hidden away in the big Catalan dailies. Where the Madrid sports newspapers would lead the transcripts of press conferences with Guardiola's answers on his contract and his future, the same replies would be run at the end of reports in the Catalan editions.

No conspiracy. Fantastic institutions like Sport and El Mundo Deportivo are simply responding to their audience. But it does show how Guardiola is shielded from the media spotlight, leaving him free to coach his players - it works in Barcelona. But the reality is not the same in London. Ten points behind Real? AVB was shown the door with Chelsea three points outside the top four and seven away from third-place Tottenham.

The way Swansea City dismantled Manchester City on Sunday must have given Abramovich food for thought. He is expected to go foreign - and for a big name - but Brendan Rodgers, with his Chelsea background, has been managing teams for as long as Guardiola's time with Barcelona. And unlike the Spaniard, Rodgers suffered the 'dark times' and came through the other end. He was sacked at Reading, bounced back to take charge of Swansea and now has them playing what many are saying is the best brand of football in Europe.

Rodgers' work at Swansea, it can be argued, is superior to what Guardiola has done with Barcelona. While the Barca coach has inherited players and a method of playing built over decades, Rodgers has taken players from across the country and Europe, introduced them to his system and made them better for it.

The question is: Could Guardiola get the likes of Leon Britton and Joe Allen playing his way just as Rodgers has achieved?

This is the nagging doubt about Guardiola: Can his methods work with those foreign to the system drummed into Barca players day-after-day at La Masia? He wants to show it can - but should a club the size of Chelsea allow itself to be his proving ground?

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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