On Wednesday, Pep Guardiola officially announced his agreement to take on the manager’s role at Bayern Munich at the end of the season, when current gaffer Jupp Heynckes, aged 67, retires.
The decision of the 41-year-old former Barcelona legend to sign a 3-year contract with last season’s Bundesliga runners-up has been met with shock, especially in England, where media hype had fans convinced his arrival on British soil was imminent.
However, anyone with half a brain cell or a semi-respectable knowledge of the football industry will appreciate that Bayern Munich were the only club that Guardiola was ever interested in, for some painfully obvious reasons.
So, while Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness conceded, “Only a coach of Guardiola’s caliber came into consideration,” the feeling was entirely mutual on Guardiola’s behalf.
Perhaps more than any other club, Manchester City were touted as the ex-Spanish international’s next challenge, with many believing previous appointments of former Barcelona colleagues Txiki Begiristain and Ferra Sorriano acted as a pulling factor. Those in the know will understand this element was, in fact, dissuasive as numerous signings made when Begiristain and Guardiola worked in conjunction were failures, leaving relations between the two strained at best.
Having spent the first 18 years of his playing career encapsulated by the unique family orientated philosophy that Barcelona have developed, the prospect of dealing with a squad of overgrown, selfishly uncontrollable ego’s that poisons City’s squad would have been enough to strike the current Premier League champions off his list.
The other club in the non-existent race for the Catalan’s signature was apparently Chelsea. Boasting the luxurious title of current ‘Champions of Europe’ is not enough to mask the hideous identity crisis that has taken over Stamford Bridge, leading to appointments of bitter enemies and skirmishes between their own fans during recent matches. Sure Mr. Abramovich would undoubtedly throw huge sums of pocket change in the Spaniard’s direction, but Guardiola has considerably more class.
He has evolved and achieved excellence as a player then as a manager at a club run and owned by its supporters. Bayern too, are a fan owned club, without the rich interfering businessman owner that comes as standard at Chelski.
Enough of why the ‘top’ English clubs failed to attract one of Europe’s hottest talents and on to the reasons why Bayern Munich so obviously present the most attractive offer for Guardiola.
Bayern Munich are already regarded as one of Europe’s top 5 greatest ever clubs, having been crowned European champions on four previous occasions and runners-up twice in the last three seasons, solidifying their heavyweight status with a history richer than that of Barcelona.
Friend and former teammate of Guardiola, Ajax manager, Frank de Boer claims ex-Bayern coach Louis van Gaal admitted, “It is a very professional club, a well-run club, with the same kind of philosophy as Barcelona.” He was convinced Guardiola’s decision was entirely “…down to the structure of the club.” Former Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves concurred, “The facilities and stadium are perhaps better than anywhere in the world.”
The make-up of Bayern’s squad, the style of football they already play and the ability they possess to be molded further to fully represent Guardiola’s footballing fantasy were the key factors in his decision.
His Barcelona team had a strong core of experienced players in Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Andreas Iniesta and Lionel Messi, whilst Bayern boast a healthy backbone of Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery. Known for his utilisation of youth prospects, he will be fully aware of hot prospects in Xherdan Shaqiri, David Alaba, Holger Badstuber, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Javi Martinez who all fall under the age of 24. In total, Bayern’s squad boasts eight German internationals.
Having shifted towards a Barcelona-esque keep ball style in recent years, Bayern boast an average of 63 percent possession per game this season, second only to Barcelona with 68.8 percent. Successful passes sees them second again only to Barca, 87.6 percent to 89.7 percent and when it comes to pass completion, the top two players in Europe were, (obviously) Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez on 95.3 percent followed by Bayern’s Holger Badstuber on 93.1 percent.
But, they play in the Bundesliga, I hear you scream. Well here’s a statistic for you – UEFA’s 2013 ranking of domestic league places scored the German Bundesliga on 75 points in third place, just a mere two points behind the Premier League on 77 points in second place. Furthermore, if the FIFA World XI is anything to go by, the Premier League has as many bragging right as the Bundesliga – none.
The argument that Pep Guardiola still has a lot to prove is a valid one, given that he possesses just four years experience at the top level.
Granted he won an incredible 14 titles during his short reign, though he was working alongside, what is generally accepted to be, the greatest footballing team and individual in the history of the game. Tito Vilanova’s 11-point cushion at the summit of La Liga backs this argument.
If nothing else, his spell at Bayern will certainly help to answer any lingering doubts about his managerial ability.
For those English football fans still in unfounded shock, fear not, Guardiola confessed, “I hope in the future, I have a challenge to be a coach or a manager there.”
For everyone else living in the real world, rejoice, for you now have a legitimate reason to attend Oktoberfest this year.
Written by Dom Wallace
Sport 4 Thought