Pep Guardiola has just endured the worst spell of his management careerToday could well mark the end of an era, if reports claiming Barcelona head coach Pep Guardiola is to announce his departure from the club are to be believed.
Many sources are claiming that the 41-year-old will use a press conference later on Friday to state he is stepping down from the role after four trophy-laden years at the helm. However, there appears to be no one in the Spanish or foreign media who has heard those words from the man himself.
As one editor from Eurosport's Madrid office puts it: "Currently, nobody knows anything about his decision except his family.
"So (Friday's) press conference after practice is waiting like a bomb. Some people think he's done and some think he'll stay. It's 50/50 in terms of feelings."
The reports largely stem from a three-hour meeting Guardiola had with club president Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta on Wednesday morning, just hours after Barca's crushing Champions League semi-final elimination at the hands of Chelsea. In that meeting it is believed that Guardiola said he was thinking of quitting. Rosell told him to sleep on it.
Chelsea have been earmarked as a possible destination for the former midfielder, with at least one British back page this morning claiming that owner Roman Abramovich is ready to let him name his price in order to take over at Stamford Bridge.
Other reports claim that he is the FA's top target to take over the England job in time for Euro 2012, with odds at one bookie dropping from 22/1 to 14/1 last night.
Both links, however, are most likely pie in the sky, fancifully created by a footballing culture which still believes itself the be all and end all of the world game.
One look at how the England job has marked a major blemish on the career of even the great Fabio Capello, or how the revolving door at Chelsea would not even stop for Carlo Ancelotti, must surely be enough to make a man of Guardiola's dignity and status think twice at best about taking on either of those jobs.
Besides, after hitting such incredible heights with his tight-knit, supremely-talented group at the Nou Camp, would he want to take charge of a bunch of English misfits who lurch from shame to embarrassment with such regularity?
Guardiola's heart truly belongs to Barcelona, having been born and raised in the area and graduating through the club's famed academy. A multiple league and European champion as both player and manager, Guardiola's three-decade long association with the club was only broken by a six-year spell at the end of his playing career before he returned to take charge of the B team.
Upon his return to Catalonia, Guardiola helped usher through a generation of some of the world's top players, with whom he won title after title once he took the big job.
While the longevity of managers such as Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes is truly laudable, as is the way they have come to personify their clubs, they have not devoted most of their lifetimes to them in the same way that Guardiola has.
The draining effect of being so intrinsically linked with the fortunes of Barcelona has always been on Guardiola's mind, hence the reason for him resisting the urge to sign anything more than a one-year rolling contract every season.
If Guardiola does announce his departure, he deserves to take a break from football, even disappear from the game altogether for a while and let the legacy he has created continue in another's hands. One thing his great achievements do not deserve is the England job.
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Aldershot Town have confirmed that that they will be receiving a very special visitor in June. The Dalai Lama will be coming to the EBB Stadium this summer as part of an eight-day tour which also takes in the Royal Albert Hall and the MEN Arena.
It is a shame that the 14th spiritual leader of Tibet could not bring his visit to the UK forward to this weekend and pay a visit to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, because his Buddhist message of peace, love and tolerance would be most welcome.
The atmosphere at the Bridge when Queens Park Rangers visit is unlikely to be convivial for a West London derby that has so much riding on it. Chelsea are still hoping to reach fourth place, and with it a Champions League play-off place - despite reaching the final of this season's competition - while QPR are just one point and one place above the relegation zone with three games of their season remaining.
But Sunday's match will be played against the unsavoury backdrop of an upcoming court case in which John Terry will face charges of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand during the sides' first meeting at Loftus Road last October - something which the Chelsea captain vehemently denies.
Ferdinand had held meetings with his lawyers to discuss whether or not to shake hands with Terry before the match, for fear it would prejudice the trial, which starts on July 9.
When the two sides met at Loftus Road again for an FA Cup tie in January, the pre-match handshakes were not staged as they are not mandatory in the competition, but the Premier League likes to insist on the convention happening before every match.
As Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore put it back in March: "It's not a handshake that says everybody loves everybody else. It's a handshake that says: 'Whatever crap's gone on before now and whatever crap will go on after this game is over, for the next 90 minutes, let's just play a game of football.'"
However, after taking legal advice, they have now decided to suspend the ritual.
In the games immediately following the news that Terry would be facing legal action over the allegations, some Chelsea fans were heard chanting "Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are" at games, and Ferdinand was sent a bullet and a death threat in the post before the FA Cup tie.
Perhaps, given the potentially bitter atmosphere at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, pamphlets containing some of the Dalai Lama's wise words such as "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible" should be handed out among the crowd before the match.
It would beat those little white flags, anyway.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "They didn't rotate enough. They don't have depth on the bench. That's the main problem. I watched almost every Spurs game and they played them all with the same 11, 12, 13 players. That's why the players now are really tired. Tottenham, for me, had one of the best teams in England. Of course it will be an unsuccessful season now if they don't go to the Champions League." — Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka, who is currently on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, lays the blame for Spurs' alarming late-season slump firmly at manager Harry Redknapp's door.
FOREIGN VIEW: "This is incredible. It's the first time I have felt like crying on a football pitch. That was without doubt the most important goal I have ever scored." — Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente can barely hide his emotions after the Basque club booked their place in the Europa League final, where they will face fellow Spaniards Atletico Madrid.
COMING UP: We will have comprehensive previews of all the weekend's action in the Premier League and also from across Europe's other major leagues. Jim White and Paul Parker will be giving their latest views on the game, and you can see who won our poll for Goal of the Week.