Pep Guardiola has told Arsenal that they are top of his Premier League wishlist, according to reports.
According to Goal.com, representatives of the former Barcelona manager have let it be known to the north London club that he would be very keen to be considered for the manager’s job if it was to become available next year.
Guardiola, who is on a year’s sabbatical in New York, is in the frame for leading posts in England, as well as Continental giants like AC Milan, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.
Sources have told the football website that Guardiola’s Premier League preference is to take the reins at Arsenal, ahead of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
The Spaniard, who guided Barcelona to 14 trophies including two Champions League crowns and three La Liga titles during a dazzlingly successful four-year tenure, is expected to begin sifting through offers early in 2013.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under more pressure than at any point since taking over in October 1996.
The club are within two points of fourth place in the Premier League but have not won a trophy for seven years and one of their best chances of ending that run ended with the catastrophic League Cup defeat to League Two minnows Bradford City on Tuesday night.
“Guardiola’s preference in England is Arsenal,” a source told Goal.com. “The club are aware he would be interested in the job in 2013.
“Guardiola doesn’t want to go to Chelsea. He is worried about the lack of stability. He also has a good relationship with Wenger dating back to when he started doing his coaching badges at Arsenal.”
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has sounded out the 41-year-old on a number of occasions but Guardiola has strong reservations about taking a job where the manager’s position is so insecure.
Ex-Barcelona chiefs Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain are on the board at Manchester City, where Roberto Mancini’s position is in doubt in the medium and long-term, while Sir Alex Ferguson turns 71 on December 31 and has already begun considering his legacy at Manchester United.
Of the English elite who could be searching for a new manager, Arsenal have the history, prestige and stability that only United can beat and there is a strong possibility that Wenger’s reign could come to an end next summer.
The Frenchman has put contract talks on the backburner until the end of the season.
The manager’s current deal runs until June 2014 and Wenger has been informally approached by the board to arrange a time to open discussions over a new deal.
But it is understood that Wenger has no intention of discussing an extension during the season and that he will assess his future at the end of the current campaign.
“There will be no talks before then,” the source added.
It is expected that the tipping point in the decision of the most successful manager in Arsenal’s history will be whether he records a 17th consecutive top-four finish.
This fits in with the Frenchman’s own public comments in the wake of the recent 2-0 defeat against Swansea, which prompted the Frenchman to turn his anger on his own players.
Wenger stuck to his oft-stated line of honouring his contracts, while at the same time reiterating his confidence about his ability to drive the club forward.
“If you ask me always about my future, I can only give you one answer,” he said. “I always respected my contracts, and that is it.”
The Arsenal board, led by majority owner Stan Kroenke and chief executive Ivan Gazidis, retain complete faith in Wenger and put far greater store in his record of top-four finishes and success in navigating the group stages of the Champions League than current form.
If Arsenal fail to attain a Champions League place this season, there is a strong possibility that Wenger will conclude he has failed to achieve his primary objective and agree an amicable exit strategy with the club.
Such is Wenger’s elevated status at Emirates Stadium that he has a far greater say in his destiny than any English-based boss, bar perhaps Ferguson.
Wenger is also expected to have a considerable say in who his successor will be.
The two men the Frenchman is most likely to recommend are believed to be Guardiola and Dragan Stojkovic.
The former Yugoslavia captain played for Wenger when he was in charge at Nagoya Grampus Eight in the mid-1990s and has followed in his mentor’s shoes by managing the Japanese club since 2008.
In an interview last year, Wenger said: “I would love Stojkovic to be my successor, there are a hundred reasons for that.
“Our ideas are the same and we both strive for perfect football. I knew he was going to have teams playing attacking football with many passes.”