Pep Guardiola admitted on Tuesday that the lure of coaching in the English Premier League was the reason for his departure from Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich at the end of this season.
“I want to coach in England,” the Spaniard told a press conference, his first since the announcement on December 20 of his departure and replacement by Italian Carlo Ancelotti.
“I’m still young and I need new challenges,” said Guardiola, who turns 45 later this month.
The former Barcelona coach has since been linked with Chelsea after Jose Mourinho was sacked, and also with Manchester City whose own manager Manuel Pellegrini is under contract until 2017.
“I have this possibility to go to England. It’s the right time,” said Guardiola.
“The only reason I am not renewing my contract is that I am looking for a new challenge.
“I have several offers from England but I haven’t signed anything yet.
“If I were 60 or 65 I would’ve stayed, but I think I am too young. I need a new challenge.
“It was a dream, it is a dream. I am very grateful to Bayern for this huge opportunity.”
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has reportedly tried to lure the Spaniard to Stamford Bridge in the past and is on the look-out for a permanent successor for Mourinho, with Guus Hiddink in interim charge until the end of the season.
But City are the bookmakers’ favourites, with Guardiola having previously worked with City’s chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Beguiristain during his time at Barca.
As for United, Louis van Gaal’s immediate future seems secure but they could possibly be tempted to replace one former Barca and Bayern boss with another.
Pellegrini has had to deal with recurring speculation linking Guardiola with his position throughout his tenure.
But he was unwilling to comment, stating: “I don’t have a reaction about that or feelings on other managers. It is a question I answered two weeks ago when I said no more about that.”
Guardiola quit Barcelona in 2012 despite being the most successful coach in the club’s history during his four-year reign.
In January 2013 he signed a three-year deal, worth a reported 22 million euros ($24m), to coach Bayern from July that year.
Bayern, already a dominant force having won the treble in 2013 of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup under Jupp Heynckes, soon became almost unbeatable at home.
This season, Bayern have lost only two of 26 games and in the last two years swept five trophies, but the most desired, the European Cup, has so far eluded Guardiola during his time in Germany.
Bayern are currently eight points clear of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga with their next game to come at Hamburg on January 22 while they will face Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Paying tribute to his successor, Guardiola said he hoped that Bayern would understand his decision.
“I hope that (Karl-Heinz) Rummenigge (Bayern chairman) and the staff understand my decision, I’d be sorry if they were disappointed by my choice,” he continued, adding that he would discuss the subject “for the first time” with his players during their winter training camp in Qatar starting on Wednesday.
“Carlo is the perfect coach for this team,” he added. “I’m sure that all will go well for him and for Bayern.”