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EPL giants United, City on red Pep alert

 Bayern Munich's head coach Pep Guardiola (R) has added an unprecedented level of flexibility to his team. PHOTO/AFP

Bayern Munich’s head coach Pep Guardiola (R) has added an unprecedented level of flexibility to his team. PHOTO/AFP

MUNICH, December 16- England’s top clubs will pay particular attention to a certain Spaniard in Bavaria this festive season with Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola due to announce his future plans before Christmas.

Guardiola, 44, is halfway through the third and final year of his current contract and says he will announce his decision to stay or go before December 25.

Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is ready to make Guardiola a generous offer to extend his stay by laying out “many positive reasons to stay at Bayern”.

Club captain Philipp Lahm has told the coach the squad want him to stay.

“The team’s position is clear, we enjoy working with our coach and we really, really want to keep doing so,” said Lahm.

Spain international Xabi Alonso is reported to want to extend his contract, which also expires in June, should Guardiola stay.

And even Bayern fans got in on the act.

On Guardiola’s pre-Christmas visit to a Bayern fan club earlier this month, one supporter, dressed as Father Christmas, cheekily handed him an elaborate scroll.

It was a spoof contract to remain Bayern’s coach for the rest of his life.

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All Guardiola had to do was sign his name and fill in “whatever amount of money he thought was appropriate”.

Although he laughed it off, Guardiola has become increasingly annoyed by the constant rounds of rumours, which has even seen him linked to the England national team.

– Next stop England? -Marti Perarnau, the Spanish journalist who shadowed Guardiola through his first season in Munich, has insisted England will be Pep’s next stop.

Various sources claim Guardiola has already signed a deal to join Manchester City, at the start of 2015, to take charge of the Citizens for the 2016/17 season.

City’s rivals Manchester United have entered the fray as possible future employers to replace Louis van Gaal following poor results and their Champions League exit.

And with Chelsea close to the Premier League relegation places, Guardiola’s name has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

Yet Guardiola has given no indication of where his future lies.

His reputation for success, having won 19 titles as either coach of Barcelona or Bayern, leaves Europe’ top clubs clamouring for his services.

Regardless of whether he stays or goes at the end of the season, Guardiola wants to get his hands on the Champions League trophy again in the May 28 final.

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It would be his third European crown after his 2009 and 2011 success with Barca and would only enhance his pristine reputation.

He has repeatedly said that at a club like Munich, only the Champions League matters, which he insists he is okay with, even if his irritated expression suggests otherwise.

Both of his two previous attempts to win the European crown with Bayern ended at the semi-final stage when found wanting, first by Real Madrid, then Barcelona.

The lack of pace out wide, which Barcelona cruelly exposed in their 3-0 thumping of Bayern in May at the Camp Nou was quickly remedied as wingers Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman were signed up for this season.

– Treble ambitions –

 Bayern Munich's Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso (L) is reported to want to extend his contract, which expires in June 2016, should the team's head coach Pep Guardiola stay. PHOTO/AFP

Bayern Munich’s Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso (L) is reported to want to extend his contract, which expires in June 2016, should the team’s head coach Pep Guardiola stay. PHOTO/AFP

As they have done in each of the last three seasons, Bayern hold a commanding lead in the Bundesliga and are bidding to become the first team to win four consecutive German league titles.

But Guardiola’s tenure in Bayern will be judged on whether or not he falls again at the semi-final hurdle.

Guardiola has build on the work done by predecessor Jupp Heynckes.

Heynckes delivered the 2013 treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles, but Guardiola has added an unprecedented level of flexibility to his team.

Guardiola’s Bayern can change their formation during a game if necessary.

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For example, with the scores goalless at home to Ingolstadt on Saturday, Guardiola moved Lahm into midfield, Coman switched wings and Javi Martinez dropped into defence.

The result was two goals in the final half an hour.

That’s why Bayern reportedly want to up his estimated salary of 14 million euros and plenty of clubs would pay for the privilege.

But as Lahm told Kicker: “If Guardiola leaves one day, for sure another excellent coach will come along, but first we have to see what happens.”

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