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Which national team could Pep Guardiola manage?

The current Manchester City head coach has made it clear that his dream is to one day take charge of a team in a World Cup, Euros or Copa América.

The current Manchester City head coach has made it clear that his dream is to one day take charge of a team in a World Cup, Euros or Copa América.
LEE SMITHAction Images via Reuters

“A national team,” answered Pep Guardiola. Short but direct, to the point. And perhaps most importantly: absolutely sure of it. “I would like to train a national team for a World Cup or a European Championship. I would like that”.

When asked about his major objectives having won just about everything that shines in the world of football, it might seem that Pep Guardiola - arguably the greatest ever coach the sport has ever seen - has finished his football to-do list. But this is Guardiola, and there is always more to win.

I do not know who would want me”, he told ESPN Brazil. “To work for a national team they have to want you, just like a club.”

Guardiola ‘would like’ a World Cup experience

“When I started in this I never thought about winning a league title or winning the Champions League. No. I thought, I have a job? OK. I would like to have the experience of living through a World Cup, or a Euro or a Copa America, or whatever it is. I would like that. I do not know when that would be, if that is five, 10, 15 years from now but I would like to have the experience of being a manager in a World Cup.”

As the football literally never stops, over at AS USA Towers, we agreed it might be a nice thought experiment to have a look at which team Pep Guardiola could manage come the 2026 World Cup, which is to be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Guardiola has expressed his desire to manage a national team one day.
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Guardiola has expressed his desire to manage a national team one day.JOHN SIBLEYAction Images via Reuters

Which national team could Pep Guardiola manage?


Perhaps the most obvious choice is Spain. A chance for Guardiola to return to the country where he was born, and where he hasn’t managed for 12 years and about which he recently commented. The last time he took charge of a job at the top level in Spain, things worked out quite well, and with a core of Spanish players he managed to win everything on offer. There are plenty of young stars in the Spain team at the moment and lots of them come from Barcelona - Pedri, Gavi, Lamine Yamal, Ferran - so the squad would certainly keep that blaugrana feel to it, which can only be a plus for Pep.


The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) have made no secret of wanting Carlo Ancelotti has their new head coach. The Italian would represent a huge statement for the sport in a country that has seen its national team fall away from the podium and mix in with teams that regularly drop out at the earlier stages. Dorival Junior is a popular choice but not one that fizzes the viewers; if the CBF were to go in for a big name ahead of the 2026 World Cup, then Guardiola might well be on that list.


The English national side have been the recent underachievers in international tournaments, making it to seemingly countless finals and semi-finals, yet always ending up as the bridesmaid and never the bride. Guardiola could be that extra push they need to really take advantage of the individual talent they have strewn across the pitch, and that way poor Harry Kane might actually win something for once.


The reigning world champions are still flying high after their historic World Cup win in Qatar in 2022, but manager Lionel Scaloni, quite rightly, has said he’s simply exhausted. The now legendary leader of the side will step down at some point ahead of the 2026 tournament and Pep Guardiola could be the perfect man to replace him. He’d make sure Lionel Messi didn’t leave, that’s for sure. And considering how it went last time, I don’t think I’d mind another Guardiola-Messi reunion.


What could be better than a debut World Cup experience for a manager? Well, a debut World Cup experience on home soil! Yes, the 2026 World Cup is obviously being held across three countries but the US will see the majority of the action and if Pep Guardiola is on the touchline as Tyler Adams puts his hand to his chest as The Star Spangled Banner booms out of the MetLife Stadium speakers, would certainly be a ‘pinch me’ moment for US soccer fans. I’m just not sure Weston McKennie could put up with those high-intensity training schedules.

While the future remains uncertain, Guardiola’s current focus is on Manchester City’s pursuit of the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League. As he stated in December, “If we win the treble this season, I’ll retire. That’s for sure.” Let’s hope that scenario doesn’t unfold.

Who knows what Guardiola might end up doing, but I think it’s been made clear over the years that when he’s had enough, he’s had enough. We could see him at another club in the meantime or even on another sabbatical, just like when he left Barcelona to go and play chess with his friend, Gary Kasparov. Yes, that really happened. Guardiola’s probably exceptionally good at that, too.