Thursday, 17 January 2013

Guardiola Chooses Bayern

On Tuesday, Pep Guardiola threw a major red herring into the faces of the media by admitting that he has aspirations to “have a challenge to be a coach or manager in England” in the “future” in a video message recorded to celebrate the FA's 150th anniversary. It is a fact that he does, yes; however, many took it to be a literal statement and did not expect him to be simultaneously planning to become the next head coach of Bayern Munich to replace the retiring Jupp Heynckes, as it was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Guardiola, 41, has spent the last half a year in New York with his family on a break away from the intense world of football, re-charging since departing from his beloved Barcelona in May last year.

When the overrun, visibly stressed and fatigued Catalan announced to his players, and later at the well-attended press conference that his time at Barcelona was drawing to a close leading to Tito Vilanova's succession, there was an immediate, persistent question: where next?

Ever since Pep was a lanky, football-obsessed child continuously carrying a ball around in the Catalan village of Santpedor, the beautiful game has been a constant in his life. Thus, he could not stray away for too long, it was simply time to rest and re-discover his passion for coaching; for Guardiola needs football and football needs Guardiola.

Pep is a person whose head cannot usually be turned by money alone and the scale of such attraction; in fact, he was quoted once as saying he would manage Brescia (the club he played for in Italy after leaving Barcelona in 2001) ”for nothing”. Add this to the fact that Chelsea supposedly offered Guardiola a contract worth €22m per year with unlimited transfer funds (according to
Mundo Deportivo), and Guardiola suddenly becomes much more admirable in football's current depressing financial culture to those who were not already convinced of his modesty.

Another element to the Catalan's personality that ultimately won over many fans is his bold - and sometimes ruthless - perfectionist nature. At Barcelona, outstanding players with magnificent reputations like Deco and Ronaldinho were told by Guardiola that they played no part in his plans. Even names of this celebrated calibre would not fault the certainty and self confidence of the newly appointed Pep.

Said qualities were pivotal to his momentous success at the Nou Camp and it is therefore no surprise that various European giants were interested in him. Roman Abramovich, determined to persuade Guardiola into joining Chelsea, had already been badgering Guardiola for at least a year before the Catalan took to Camp Nou's press room in April. He was also linked with Arsenal and Manchester United as the proposed successor for either Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson, and countless rumours and links to other clubs including Manchester City and Paris St-Germain circulated ever since the world learned Barcelona would enter a post-Pep era.

And so, the transition is nearly complete. It makes complete sense for Guardiola to move to southern Germany, for if any team bar Barcelona enjoys defeating Real Madrid anywhere near as much, it is Bayern Munich. Furthermore, Bayern, like Barcelona, is a club with immense expectations to say the least, domestically and in Europe. Additionally, their youth system (the
Säbener Strasse academy) is one to be credited and is likely to have played a significant role in convincing Pep to put pen to paper so he can utilise it as he did La Masia when at Barcelona. Tito Vilanova, friend and successor to him at Barcelona, said that his fellow Catalan will return to football by joining one of “Europe’s greatest clubs”.

There is a word which is uttered over and over again within the same sentence as Bayern: structure. If Guardiola was going to move anywhere, it would undoubtedly be a club where he can feel valued and protect his reputation (which is something that means a lot him); Chelsea, with their infamous and controversial sackings of managers, is most likely the exact opposite. Even the excess amount of money in the Russian league was not enough to persuade Pep over the strong, prosperous model of the Bundesliga.

Whether the contradiction of his single year contract policy by signing for three years in Germany means he feels inspired, revamped and confident enough to see out that time is particularly interesting. At Barcelona, Guardiola would never commit for more than a year at a time for fear of his eventual reality: burning out.

Should the coach who won 14 trophies in four seasons prioritise anything when implementing himself into Germany, it shall be to instil his world-beating philosophy. This means that, collectively, Bayern will have to start afresh if Guardiola and the club are to construct success hand in hand.

Guardiola's priorities and beliefs pave the way for what may well become a significantly interesting transfer window this upcoming summer. If Ronaldinho and Deco were players that Pep simply inherited and did not require, then stellar names like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and more may well begin to question their future at the club. Spaniard Javi Martinez, on the other hand, can probably consider himself to be safe.

As odd as it sounds, Pep still has to prove himself, for Barcelona was part of his DNA; he knew the club inside out. Munich is a fresh challenge and an alteration of culture in a more competitive league, where everything has not fallen into place for him as perfectly as it already had at the Nou Camp. There shall be no Lionel Messi in his prime; no guaranteed cohesive perfection; a completely new set up and thus a situation in which Guardiola will have to craft foundations for success if the fans of Bayern Munich as well as the inevitable watching world are to be satisfied.

 Germany's Bundesliga in general, compared to La Liga at least, is much more realistic compared to the Barcelona and Real Madrid domination with little opportunities for others. The recent brilliance of the Borussia Dortmund players, under Jurgen Klopp, has proved it is hardly a league in which Bayern Munich is the be all and end all of German football. Bayer Leverkusen are currently second in the league, above Klopp’s side. Despite them having a 9 point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, their domestic and European dominance does need reinstating. Better quality football, astounding fan bases, cheaper tickets and a profitable structure await Guardiola.

Football consumers and the media were undoubtedly accustomed to - and enjoying - Guardiola's subtle and explosive touchline charisma at Barcelona, and simply his general presence, until he stepped down.
Guardiola's brief and expected recluse has been less than a year. However, these 'cycles' that the Catalan proposes to work in will mean that every three or four years, he will become an enigmatic name, circling websites, Twitter, newspapers and cropping up in every few rumours for however long he chooses.

The most wanted man in football has determined the next chapter of his career. Whether it shall ultimately be successful or not is waiting to be unearthed; in the meantime, however, countless fans of football - as well as the Catalan himself - will be preparing for July when the shaven-headed, impeccably dressed Pep Guardiola emerges from his temporary obscurity to the prepared green grass and awaiting dugout of one the world's largest stages.

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