With rather neat timing following my piece earlier this week where I looked at how the recent hiring of Txiki Begiristain may impact upon Roberto Mancini's future at the club, news emerged yesterday via Daniel Taylor (whose gain as a the Chief Football football writer of the The Guardian and Observer has been Manchester's loss since it meant him vacating his position as The Guardian's man in Manchester) in The Guardian that Mancini had held extensive talks with French Ligue 2 side Monaco during the latter part of last season with a view to becoming their manager.
Taylor reported that talks lasted almost three months, with the outcome being that Monaco were of the belief that Mancini was set to join them. He also states that the Italian was offered a five-year contract believed to be in the region of £6.4 million (which would have made him the third highest paid manager in the world after Guus Hiddinck and Carlo Ancelotti)
Today's press conference was therefore always likely to be an intriguing one and far from deflecting the news, Mancini confirmed that the reports were true - going so far as to say he was ‘very close with ‘seven, eight teams' but confirmed that his preference was to remain with City and of course subsequently signed a new five year contract.
For all the talk of a possible departure, Mancini does appear - on the surface at least - to have eyes very much on the future, saying ‘I think the next three or four years will be very will be very important for us. I think that now with Ferran [Soriano] and [Txiki] Begiristain we can work very well - we can improve our team' (in doing so imparting a final shot at the freshly-departed Brian Marwood?)
But what did prompt Mancini to at the very least consider a move away from the club?
The timing of the meeting is clearly of importance. It is believed that the final meeting between the parties was held following the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal, a result which Mancini accepted had meant City had lost the title. We all know how that situation was reversed but at the time there was no doubt that speculation was rife with regards his future security. Was this a case of Mancini hedging his bets given there appeared a very real chance that not only would a new contract not be forthcoming, but that he would be shown door following the season?
One thing that should be stated though is despite these talks apparently ongoing for some time, there is no question of Mancini taking his eye off the ball. Looking back, Mancini never looked anything but focused during this period and once United allowed City a foothold back into the title race he wore the expression of a man completely absorbed by the challenge at hand. A likely scenario would have been that the all manner of agents and advisers conducted the bulk of the negotiations on his behalf.
There is no doubt though that this news could cause problems for him. The ownership have always appeared supportive of Mancini, maintaining a regular dialogue directly with him - something Mark Hughes (although fault may have laid more with him) never managed - and in the summer backed him to the tune of an extended contract. For an ownership group that paint themselves as a principled bunch, will his actions constitute a betrayal in their eyes? After all, whilst a football manager provides little in terms of job security they are handsomely remunerated after all and Mancini was under contract when he has admitted speaking to other clubs.
The timing of the news is also strange. The source of the ‘leak' is not known but it is clear that is must have been someone close to the club and it comes less than a week since Begiristain arrived and Marwood - Mancini's arch nemesis - departed. Coincidence? Maybe, but somebody wanted the news out in the public domain, knowing that at the very least it would create discomfort for Mancini; the unrest and uncertainty of a situation perhaps then undermining his position.
Mancini though appears to have done a good job at closing off the story at today's press conference and lest we forget he did sign a new contract committing his future to the club. He will also know that as frustrated as he may have been at times there are not many situations out there that are as appealing to a manager as the position at city, but Mancini's history undoubtedly evidences his ability to bristle against people and the very real possibility is that speculation regarding his future will continue to surround him during the course of this season at the very least.