Pep Guardiola led the brilliant Barcelona team to 14 trophies in just four seasons in charge, a feat that has made him the most successful manager in the club’s prestigious history. A great player himself for the club, the thought of him heading another team seems strange and foreign, but he is now set to be the man on the sidelines for Bayern Munich, one of Germany’s proudest clubs.
But a burning question remains and will be answered during his tenure there: Is Guardiola really that amazing of a coach or was his success just the product of the incredible Barcelona players?
Barcelona was already a dominant team when Guardiola arrived in 2008, though he can be credited with the bold decisions to move on from players like Ronaldinho, Deco, and Samuel Eto’o. But with a core set featuring Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Carlos Puyol, this team was destined for greatness regardless of who was making the calls on the sideline.
2009 provided that greatness, as Barcelona earned a startling 6 trophies throughout the calendar year, becoming the most dominant team in the world. But such perfection is expected at Barcelona and apparently the stress of the job led Guardiola to resign last summer following his first failure to win La Liga. Having rested and relaxed for a year, Guardiola is now set to take on the German challenge at Bayern Munich, and quite the challenge it will present.
Bayern Munich expects to win trophies and control the German Bundesliga. Although they have been excellent and have reached 2 recent Champions League Finals recently, Bayern has come away as the losers, once to Inter Milan and last season to Chelsea. Domestically, Bayern has embarrassingly fallen behind the exciting Borussia Dortmund. Last season’s DFB Pokal final saw Dortmund abuse Bayern 5-2. Having not won a major trophy since 2010, Munich is looking for a blessing from above, and the highly decorated Guardiola with all his shiny honors will be expected to deliver immediate results.
One worry for me is that the current Bayern Munich side is filled with a bunch of players who have routinely ended up second best throughout their careers. Where to begin? The Germany national team has impressed in recent international tournaments with their exciting young offensive players. Bayern is the home of internationals like Thomas Muller, Phillip Lahm, Mario Gomez, Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, and Bastian Schweinsteiger. But let us look at how Germany finishes these tournaments. They were abused by Mario Balotelli in the semi-finals of EURO 2012, and by Spain in the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup.
EURO 2008 saw Germany lose to Spain in the final. The 2006 World Cup saw Germany lose on home soil to Italy in extra time in the semi-finals. Notice the trend here? The Germans have become an exciting team that cannot finish the job. They haven’t won a major tournament since 1996.
Then there are players like Arjen Robben, a brilliant winger who helped lead the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, where a golden opportunity was squandered en route to Spain eventually winning.
Then there is Frank Ribery, the star French winger who lost the 2006 World Cup final to Italy in penalties.
The team is filled with notorious chokers. Pep Guardiola, a proven winner, will need to right this ship and that may depend on a group of new players or tactics. Guardiola brought in a whole host of players to Barcelona in his time there, and perhaps he can do the same with Bayern Munich. Several of his old Barcelona players may make the switch as well including goalkeeper Victor Valdes, strikers David Villa and Alexis Sanchez, and perhaps Javier Mascherano.
Another change may be the style of play. Currently Bayern tries to turn games into track meets by utilizing quick counter-attacks with their pacey wingers to pounce on opponents. Will Guardiola try to instill a more patient, rhythmic possession focused style? The quality of players required for such play is only available at Barcelona and perhaps goes against the aggressive German approach. I am very curious to see what approach the new coach takes.
Regardless of past history, Pep Guardiola will be handed the task of getting Bayern Munich out of their current funk. Clearly they have a talented side that has reached the latter stages of big tournaments, but how they now manage in the final games will be the determining factor of Guardiola’s success. Though with their current Bundesliga form, the team may find their trophy drought quenched this season that would alleviate the pressure a bit for Guardiola. But with immense pressure to sustain and finally achieve those big victories, I don’t think this new challenge will be any less stressful than the experience managing Barcelona was for the new coach!
Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org