FC Bayern Munich: Is Pep Guardiola a Good Fit in Der Rekordmeister?
Jupp Heynckes was dragged out of bed by Uli Hoeness to get Bayern into the Champions League during a struggle-filled season in 2009. Heynckes took over for five games and oversaw Bayern’s passage to the Champions League of the 2009-10 season. He laid the blueprints for the journey to the 2010 final. Heynckes himself took them to their next CL finale in 2012 where Bayern once again came up one step short.
Bayern came back sharper and stronger the next season. Their excellence perhaps forced Heynckes into thinking about an extension. However, he has decided to retire, allowing Pep Guardiola to step into his large shoes next season.
Guardiola is the man who embodies FC Barcelona firstly. He turned FC Barcelona into one of the greatest clubs in the history of the game. Pep, as ironic as this might sound, brought Barca level with Bayern in European terms. Prior to his stint as manager, the Catalans had won two European Cups. He added two more to their closet to bring them up to a total of four—the same as that of Bayern.
However, Bayern has incredibly lost five European Cup finals. The main purpose of bringing in Pep is to perhaps get them to cross the finish line—something which failed them in the 2010 and 2012 Champions League finals, especially in 2012. He brings with him a winning mentality like that of Matthias Sammer’s.
Bayern at the end of the day though, is not Barcelona.
The similarities of course exist. They both have a great youth system. They both possess the kind of players who can pass the ball for hours and drain the opponent of energy. However, Bayern possesses a physical presence which Barca does not. Bayern’s players are bigger and taller than the Barca boys if this statement is to be translated into simple English.
Bayern presses incessantly. Barca does that too, but Bayern does it a bit differently. Also, Bayern is perhaps a bit more direct than Barcelona. The likes of Thomas Müller came through the system by playing directly; that cannot simply be changed. Guardiola will have to adapt his coaching to the kind of style Bayern employs. While their style is not exactly the same as that of Barca, they are just brilliant to watch on any day.
Guardiola experimented with different strikers but ended up playing with a "false nine" at Barcelona at the end. At Bayern, he will have the perfect strikers at his disposal in Mario Gomez and Mario Mandzukic. Nils Petersen will add to that if he returns from loan as will Claudio Pizarro if he extends his contract with Bayern.
Guardiola is surely aware of the fact that he is stepping into the coach’s role, not the manager’s. He played the same role at Barca but perhaps had more influence than he will have at Bayern. The difference between a coach and a manager is that a manager has part of the sporting director’s responsibilities on his shoulders too, unlike a coach.
Guardiola seemed slightly more influential at Barca than a coach. Players who he seemingly did not like did not survive at the club. This will not occur at Bayern. As an example, if he turns out to dislike Arjen Robben (and he would not be the first person in the world to do so), he would not be able to have Robben shipped off elsewhere simply because the Bayern board is more than happy to tolerate him because of his unquestionable talent.
Also, the money for transfers will not be ready at his word. Bayern is financially sound; this is down to their culture of winning as well as their controlled spending. Once in a while, Bayern breaks the bank for somebody special. However, they would not be willing to do so at Pep’s word. Uli Hoeness, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Matthias Sammer will always have the last word on transfers.
Speaking of Sammer, Guardiola has to learn to get on with a person whose press interviews always seem to betray the words “the sky is falling” in between the lines. Sammer is a winner; he is not easy to deal with at all. Jupp Heynckes gets along well with him nonetheless.
Heynckes has the backing of the entire board. He is Hoeness’ friend. However, Pep will have to earn the same trust in his time there. It will not come easily. He will have a tough act to follow if Heynckes captures the treble this season. If Heynckes wins the CL, it will be the second time in which he has left a club after winning this competition.
Some journalists and fans seem to think that Guardiola took a somewhat less cutthroat job in Bayern. However, Bayern is actually a much harder club to handle than most Premier League clubs. The difference between relatively new powers such as City and Chelsea—aside from being financially sound and traditional—is that Bayern is run by their own “blood” and hence is filled with wise decision makers.
However, if Bayern is in a bad position in the league, they can sack a coach easily. Jupp Heynckes will be the longest serving manager since Felix Magath (in one spell as Heynckes had two previous spells at Bayern) if he keeps the job till the end of the season. Louis Van Gaal did not complete his second season. Jürgen Klinsmann was not allowed to complete one full season. Ottmar Hitzfeld decided to finally break off his Bayern connections in 2008 after winning a domestic double.
Bayern will easily get rid of someone they don’t like. No manager was ever above being sacked—not even Jupp Heynckes. Hence, Guardiola will have to tread carefully. Also, he will have to learn how to deal with the media. He is a Spanish coach in Germany; he will have to earn their trust and he will have to grow to the mantra "Mia San Mia." Bayern is not Barcelona; they are simply Bayern.
This begets the question of why Bayern hired him in the first place. Guardiola after all has never managed in German football. German football is entirely different from Spanish football. The way things are run is different. Bayern was already brilliant. Heynckes had brought them to a higher step after last season’s ‘Neverkusen’ finish. Bayern does not need to play tiki-taka to win (they are excellent passers of the ball nonetheless).
There are various answers to this one. Perhaps Bayern has brought in Guardiola as they felt that the likes of Thomas Tuchel, Thorsten Fink and Mirko Slomka are not ready for this huge job as Jürgen Klinsmann was not in 2008. Also, Bayern needs someone to push them across the finish line in the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal. Pep might just be the one.
When Javier Martinez was first brought in, not many fans took to him easily. Javi’s performances as the season went on won everyone over. He is seemingly the missing piece of the puzzle. He is the one who will perhaps succeed Bastian Schweinsteiger if Toni Kroos is not moved back into defensive midfield.
Bayern has a great youth system. 78 percent of the club is run by the fans. They identify themselves as ‘Bavarians’ rather than German. They pride themselves for producing the bulk of the national side. They are the club which outgrew 1860 Munich and transformed themselves into a world power by producing brilliant players such as Gerd Müller.
Barcelona and Guardiola was a match made in heaven. Bayern and Guardiola could turn out to be the same. However, there are plenty of reasons why Guardiola might fail. The aforementioned cutthroat approach of Bayern to managers, the domination of the hierarchy and the aforementioned difference in style are a few of them.
He will have to bring the fans to his side; this will be difficult as Bayern fans mostly like Heynckes. Guardiola, despite being given a three year contract, will always be under pressure to win. At Barcelona, he knew every player well. At Bayern, he will not be able to win over the players too easily. Bayern players are not easy to handle.
He has to win over Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger first of all. He will be welcomed warmly but cautiously. Louis Van Gaal’s welcome was warm; his exit was unceremonious. Guardiola will hope to enter with a smile on his face and to leave with one.
Overall, Bayern has taken a slight risk by appointing a manager who has not had any experience in German football. However, Guardiola obviously likes tradition; hence, he will try his best. There are questions over Guardiola’s morale. He will simply want to prove to the world that he can win the treble with another club. If Bayern does not deliver the Champions League this season after an 11-year hiatus, Guardiola knows the fans will expect him to deliver it in 2014.
Guardiola might not be a perfect fit at Bayern. However, for those of you who are familiar with the lock and key theory, the lock can adjust to fit the key. Hence, Bayern might adjust to him.
However, at the end of the day, it is Guardiola who will have to handle the Bavarian media, the hierarchy and the players all at once. He will be under plenty of pressure to deliver. He has six months time to learn the language properly in time for press interviews and tactical discussions. He has six months to learn more about Bayern.
Just before finishing, let us not forget that a great player and a great coach is about to step down this year. Jupp Heynckes was a legendary player for Borussia Mönchengladbach and the German national team. He won the Champions League with Real Madrid and might do so with Bayern too.
And finally, Guardiola needs a new nickname. He is in Germany; ‘Pep’ is no longer valid!
Welcome to FC Bayern München, Sepp Guardiola!
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