On Sunday, The Times reported that Bayern Munich are keen to sign Pep Guardiola to be their next head coach, and that the ex-Barcelona manager preferred a move to Bavaria ahead of several options in England.
Bayern’s interest in Guardiola is by no means a secret: In June, Sport-Bild broke news of a meeting between then-sporting director Christian Nerlinger and Pere Guardiola, Pep’s brother and agent.
If true, the allegations of Guardiola's preference for Bayern are a game-changer in what has become next summer’s biggest transfer sweepstakes. Manchester City brought in ex-Barca executives Ferran Soriano and Tixki Begiristain seemingly for the sole purpose of luring Guardiola. And Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is said to have made several offers to the 41-year-old.
Of all his options, however, Bayern may well be the most attractive destination for the former midfielder.
If Guardiola is looking for a club that can quickly adjust to his tactics and immediately contend for the Champions League, there could be no better destination than Munich. Just 20 months ago, Bayern were coached by Louis van Gaal. And although the current Netherlands gaffer was dismissed unceremoniously, it was he who, along with Johan Cruyff and Frank Rijkaard, brought the classic Dutch “tiki-taka” style to Barca from 1988 until Guardiola’s tenure began in 2008.
Van Gaal’s squad is much the same as that which Guardiola would inherit at Bayern. The core of Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller, Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez are still in or approaching their peak years. Toni Kroos and David Alaba, two of Van Gaal’s favorites who were not quite ready before the Dutch trainer’s dismissal, have since matured into top-class players.
At Bayern, Guardiola would have everything Van Gaal had to play Tiki-Taka and more. He’d also have Javi Martinez, whom he coveted during his time at Barca, as well as a very formidable bench.
Bayern’s midfield under Van Gaal was the second-best in the world, and the manager had Schweinsteiger playing the best football of his life. With Guardiola at the helm, there’s nothing a midfield trio of Schweinsteiger, Martinez and Kroos couldn’t do.
There are some areas where Bayern cannot compete. Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour can offer blank checks, for example. But spending heavily was never Guardiola’s forte: His signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Keirrison, Aliaksandr Hleb and Martin Caceres were all regarded as colossal failures.
Where will Guardiola serve as coach next season?
An advantage that surely will play in Bayern’s favor is their ethos and culture. The Bavarians have a rich history and stand on the same kind of moral high ground as Barca. Bayern have turned a profit for 20 consecutive years and have never relied on a wealthy owner to finance their transfers. They've even helped local rivals 1860 avoid default.
On the other hand, while money has brought stars to Chelsea and Man City, it’s also poisoned the well in the case of wooing Guardiola. There is a certain artificiality about the English sides that cannot be attractive to the coveted trainer.
Bayern’s culture of creating their own stars—four of their current starters have been with the club since before their teens and two more joined at age 16—is something to which Guardiola can relate. Chelsea and City are the antithesis of this culture.
At Barcelona, Pep enjoyed a harmonious squad with devoted players who loved the club and would do anything for success. He would not find the same at Chelsea or especially the mercenary-laden City. Many among Bayern play with pride for their hometown.
Others feel a deep-seated commitment to the club for giving more than a paycheck: The best example is that of Ribery, whom the club supported through his investigation for having solicited an underage prostitute.
With all the above having been said, it should be noted that Guardiola may yet choose a club that is not the best fit for him. To date he has been very coy about his future, and it's possible that he might seek not only a new league, but a new type of challenge altogether. He could succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, a club with a history and where the players have an entirely different skill set than that with which Guardiola is familiar.
We won't hear a final decision anytime soon, and in all likelihood the rumors will stay relatively dry until March or April. For now we know that Bayern are interested in Guardiola, and that the club have a lot to offer their target. If they can close the deal, it will be one of the greatest transfer coups in the history of German football.