London (AFP) - Coaching great Pep Guardiola's hint that Manchester City may be his last job has raised eyebrows and suggests the club's erratic form is getting to the poker-faced Spaniard.
The 45-year-old told NBC his career was "arriving at the end" ahead of City's 2-1 win over Burnley on Monday and followed up those comments with a moody exchange with the BBC.
The Burnley win left City seven points off Premier League leaders Chelsea, who can go 10 points clear if they beat Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
It all looked very different when City made an electrifying start to the season under Guardiola, winning their first 10 games including getting the better of his old rival Jose Mourinho in the Manchester derby.
However, since then their form has slipped considerably with City at one point going six games without a win -- Guardiola's worst run as a manager.
Questions over the wisdom of signing goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and his dispensing of fans' favourite and England number one Joe Hart have been backed up by some nervy displays by the Chilean goalkeeper.
Bravo has not been helped by a creaking defence which was brutally exposed by out-of-form champions Leicester in a 4-2 defeat in December which led to Guardiola's bizarre claim he did not do tackling after his side failed to make a single tackle in 35 minutes.
With it the mask of serenity surrounding Guardiola has slipped as well leading to his suggesting to NBC the City job could be his last.
- The end -
"I will be at Manchester for the next three seasons, maybe more," said Guardiola.
"I will not be on the bench until I am 60 or 65 years old. I feel the process of my goodbye has already started.
"I am arriving at the end of my coaching career, of this I am sure."
Mourinho may wear his heart on his sleeve but Guardiola seems self-contained and almost cold in his press conferences, only once letting the mask slip when his Portuguese rival had provoked him one too many times when they were at Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Guardiola arrived at City with much fanfare as is only right with a man who while at Barcelona delivered 14 trophies in his four years at the helm.
However, his spell at Bayern Munich -- replacing German Jupp Heynckes who had swept the domestic double and the Champions League -- yielded three Bundesliga crowns but failed to land the Champions League.
"If my work is judged on whether I win the Champions League or not, I have failed," he said after his final hopes of winning European football's most prestigious trophy with Bayern Munich had disappeared last season, going out in the semi-finals to Atletico Madrid.
"I need to accept that. If people think I have failed, I have to accept that. If you think that I have failed, you have to write it."
It is way too early to write off his City sojourn but the club's Abu Dhabi owners will be praying their dream capture as a coach does not turn into a nightmare.
For the moment the omens do not look good.
Told in a remarkably tetchy interview with the BBC following the win over Burnley he did not look too happy, Guardiola forced a smile and said in a tone dripping with sarcasm: "More than you believe. I'm so happy, believe me. Happy New Year."