What Pep Guardiola's Signing Means for Bayern Munich
After months of speculation and countless reports linking him to Chelsea, Manchester City and many other clubs, Pep Guardiola was finally announced on Wednesday as Bayern Munich's new head coach, per the club's official site. The ex-Barcelona man will take the helm in July, replacing the retiring Jupp Heynckes. His contract will run until June of 2016.
A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a foreign coach on Guardiola's level to move to the Bundesliga. But the Bavarians defied the odds—and an alleged £18 million-per-year offer from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich—to win the sweepstakes for what will likely be remembered as the highest-profile transfer target of 2013.
Guardiola and Bayern are a match made in heaven, and as club chairman Uli Hoeness said on Wednesday, "As a worthy successor to Jupp Heynckes, only a coach of Pep Guardiola's calibre comes into question." In signing the most coveted coach on the planet, the German record champions have taken a huge step for themselves and the Bundesliga as a whole.
But what's next for Bayern?
One or Two Big-Name Signings This Summer
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Especially at a club with Bayern's status and financial resources, a new trainer means at least one or two new players. Louis van Gaal was given Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez in 2009, and with Jupp Heynckes came Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng.
And surely, after landing the most attractive coach on the market, the Bayern board will give Guardiola funds to sign at least one or two big names.
Who might Guardiola aim to sign? The answer is up for speculation. Perhaps he already has received one of his intended prospects in the form of €40 million man Javi Martinez, who was linked with Barcelona not long after Guardiola announced his resignation as the club's head coach.
Whomever Bayern target this summer and throughout the duration of Guardiola's stay, the sky is the limit. A club with not only the money Bayern have to offer, but the validation of signing such a hot target—and, of course, the attractiveness that comes with having such a well-regarded coach—is an enormously attractive destination.
Bayern had clout and money before Wednesday, but the Guardiola signing will take them to the next level.
Good and Bad News for the Youngsters
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Guardiola's record for working with young players at Barcelona is mixed. Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez all flourished under his tutelage, becoming full Spain internationals.
On the other hand, the signing of Alexis Sanchez in 2011 has since limited Pedro's minutes. The same can be said of Cesc Fabregas' addition limiting opportunities for Thiago Alcantara. Others, like Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca, have had the occasional run-out, but they don't look likely to break into the first team anytime soon.
Barcelona currently have a tremendous academy that produces talent by the dozens, but they can only become stars if they play. And at a club that demands progress to the Champions League semifinals every season at the very least, there simply is not much room for the unproven.
Bayern currently have many young talents under contract, including Emre Can, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Patrick Weihrauch and the recently loaned Mitchell Weiser. They also are closely linked with Germany youth internationals Leon Goretzka and Levin Oztunali.
With Guardiola and Matthias Sammer in charge, Bayern's academy will flourish. But if expectations are for consistent performance in the Champions League and more and more big-name signings are brought in, it will be very difficult for Bayern's youngsters to break into the first team.
Guardiola will have to find the right balance to ensure he has his best possible squad for the long term, while also giving chances to academy graduates.
A Return to Tiki-Taka Tactics
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During his time at Bayern, Louis van Gaal employed the same, traditional Dutch system he'd previously used at Barcelona—one that was in many ways similar to that which Guardiola used at Barcelona. Bayern certainly had players of enough class to play a "tiki-taka" passing game, and in the 2009-10 Champions League, only Barcelona exceeded their possession percentage.
Much has changed since Van Gaal's exit, and it has made Bayern even more capable of playing a possession-based game.
David Alaba is better on the ball as a left-back than Danijel Pranjic and Holger Badstuber were, and Badstuber is a more skilled ballplayer in central defense than Daniel van Buyten and Breno. A raw talent used in defensive midfield under Van Gaal, Toni Kroos has developed into a top-class playmaker.
Bayern have played tiki-taka before, and they surely will play in one or another variation of possession-based football under Guardiola. It will not be exactly the same as Guardiola used at Barcelona, and it may not even involve the same formation. But whether in a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or otherwise, one can expect that Bayern will play an aggressive, high-pressure, possession-based game with a high offside trap.
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Confidence is something Bayern have been sorely lacking due to their two-season trophy drought. Germany's repeated inability to win the World Cup and European Championships and two Champions League finals losses have taken a hefty toll on the egos of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and others.
After last May's Champions League final loss to a Chelsea team they ought to have beaten, it was abundantly clear that they needed a confident leader. Instead of signing a new captain, they signed Guardiola.
With respect to Heynckes, who has a very formidable CV, he won the Champions League ages ago—15 years ago, to be exact.
Football has evolved since then, and the triumph of 1998 is not exactly the same kind of inspiration that Guardiola provides. Two Champions League trophies in four seasons at Barcelona, plus the reputation he built at the Catalan club, put Pep in a league of his own.
If Guardiola can't inspire confidence in Schweinsteiger, Lahm and the rest of the Bayern squad, no one can.