BY: Joe Cahal
‘Sport and politics should never mix’ is a much repeated mantra but one that the world’s greatest football manager clearly doesn’t believe in, never mind heed.
Pep Guardiola – the man who led Barcelona to 14 titles in four years before taking over at Bayern Munich – will stand as a candidate in Catalan regional elections to be held on September 27 this year.
Whilst the prospect that the 44-year-old could soon swap the dugout for a seat in parliament is unlikely, Pep’s candidature may signal some latent ambitions for a political career when he finally says goodbye to the game.
Guardiola is standing as a candidate in regional elections for the Catalan parties alliance, who are seeking independence for the region from Spain. His name is last on the candidate list so it is extremely unlikely he will be elected, with the move regarded more as a symbolic gesture to promote and support Catalan independence, rather than a serious play for political power.
Born in Santpedor, in central Catalonia, the former Barca boss has been a long time advocate and supporter for his region’s independence. Guardiola has backed international campaigns to put pressure on Madrid to allow Catalans a referendum to decide their future as part of Spain or to go it alone and last November, he made the trip from Bavaria to cast his ballot in a symbolic referendum which saw 80% of the two million taking part voting for independence.
September’s regional elections are seen as an opportunity to advance the cause but Pep – currently with Bayern on their pre-season tour of China – is unlikely to feature in many political rallies in the run up to the vote.
The Ins and Outs
Guardiola’s political skills will be tested in other ways when the team return from China given the recent transfer of Bayern’s iconic captain Bastain Schweinsteiger to Manchester United earlier this month. The Bayern boss has acted fast to placate fans and reinforce his first XI with the capture of Arturo Vidal from Juventus for a reported £26 million.
“I can fundamentally confirm that we have reached an agreement with both parties, Juventus and the player,” announced Bayern chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, in China on Thursday (July 23). “All that is lacking now is the medical and the signatures on the contract.”
The 28-year-old Chile international midfielder is likely to meet up with the team on their pre-season tour and is seen as an ideal replacement for Schweini.
Vidal already has Bundelsiga experience, having played 117 games and scoring 15 goals for Leverkusen before moving to Juve in 2011. His signing is a big boost for Bayern’s Champions League ambitions with the midfielder – currently enjoying a post-Copa America break in Miami – having netted nine times in the 27 games he’s played in the competition. His domestic strike rate for Juve – 35 goals in 124 Serie A appearances – suggests he will be also be a key player as Bayern look to retain their Bundesliga title.