Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness have never hidden their distaste for the Premier League’s nouveaux riches so there must have been a real buzz in the air when they called an extraordinary board meeting on Wednesday to announce the appointment of Pep Guardiola.
Bayern’s Chief Executive and President have been outspoken critics of oil-rich English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City. The former Bayern players described last year’s Champions League final defeat to Chelsea as the worst night of their career, quite something, especially from Rummenigge, a man who lost two World Cup finals.
Little known to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and City supremo Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Guardiola agreed to join the Bavarian giants before Christmas. The most sought-after coach in world football, the man who won 14 (and perhaps more incredibly only failed to win five titles) at Barcelona chose Bayern and the Bundesliga ahead of England.
Guardiola will replace coach Jupp Heynckes, who will retire in the summer. A few extra million euros were spurned in favour of a football philosophy more akin to that of the Spaniard’s.
“If it were purely down to money, then Bayern would have had no chance,” Bayern Chief Executive Rummenigge said. ”He was pleased with the way we have established a financial independence.”
Guardiola’s agent concurred.
”He has chosen Bayern Munich because the club was the best project among all the interested clubs,” Josep Maria Orobitg said. ”Bayern did not offer the most money. Guardiola chose this club because of its organization, its opportunities and its players.”
Football agents are not known for their credibility, but something about Orobitg’s words ring true.
Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo believes the appointment is a huge coup for Bayern and the Bundesliga. ”It’s the best decision Pep could have taken. He had three choices, Bayern, Chelsea and Manchester City. He chose the club with the most history, the most stability. And the most solid and talented team.”
Indeed, Bayern suddenly appear to have won kudos around Europe. Rare indeed is the day that l’Equipe adorns its front page with a massive headline in German, but after considering Bayern’s financial stability and the forthcoming introduction of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play, the French sports daily concluded its Guardiola editorial with one word. ”Natürlich.”
Such plaudits will come as a delight to Hoeness, who as a boy learnt to balance the books at his parent’s grocery in Ulm and as a man went on to build an enormously successful sausage empire.
Despite its lavish image as FC Hollywood, Bayern have made a profit for each of the last 20 seasons, a record that Hoeness is immensely proud of.
Now, Bayern players are wondering what Guardiola will mean for them. The initial reaction is one of elation.
”The team was excited when we heard he was coming,” said team captain Phillip Lahm. ”Only a few names could replace Heynckes who is a great coach and to hear that his successor is Pep Guardiola, then I should say that this is a top appointment. He is the coach of recent years. He has declined offers in England and that shows how much he wants to come to Bayern.”
Still, with Bayern nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and comfortably through to the next round of the Champions League and German Cup, it’s hard to see how anyone could improve on the work of outgoing coach Heynckes.
Bayern have had bad experiences with foreign coaches(they have had eight non-German coaches since the creation of the Bundesliga in 1963 and none won the European Cup) and revolutionaries (Jürgen Klinsmann lasted less than a season).
As things turned out the €40 million purchase of Javi Martinez over the summer was a mere Spanish hors d’oeuvre before the main dish of Guardiola.
But will the new coach seek to turn Bayern into a Bavarian Barca? Guardiola learnt his now renowned passing style under Johan Cruyff at Barcelona. While his philosophy is based on possession of the ball (a jaw-dropping 69 percent in La Liga during his games), Bayern like deep, penetrative passes and emphasize winning duels.
Other issues need to be resolved. Bayern always like a big target man (they currently have three of them, Mario Gomez, Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizarro) while Guardiola famously was happy to play with no centre forward at all at Barça.
Still, while there’s no chance of seeing Lionel Messi or Andres Iniesta in Bavaria, Guardiola will have players of immense technical talent at his disposal, such as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Toni Kroos. Guardiola’s challenge is to adapt their style to his own deep founded football beliefs.
If he can do that, the current wave of excitement in Bavaria is just a sign of things to come.
Deputy Head, Bundesliga Commentator
The Bundesliga is back on Eurosport2 this weekend with Schalke v Hannover on Friday (20:30) . The action continues on Saturday with Bayern v Greuther Furth LIVE at 15:30 and Bremen v Dortmund at 18:30. On Sunday we have two live matches: Nurenberg v Hamburg and Dusseldorf v Augsburg.
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