You can imagine Pep Guardiola’s grimace as Ruud van Nistelrooy read out the name of his former club just moments after drawing Bayern Munich, his new employer, out of the pot on Friday in Nyon, Switzerland.
Guardiola—hired to take over as Bayern manager at the end of the current season—will now have to endure a two-legged Champions League semifinal between the outfit he guided to a pair of European Cups and the one with which he hopes to achieve similar success over the coming years.
It’s an awkward spot for the 42-year-old to be in—an uncomfortable limbo.
But beyond the question many fans are asking (which side will he support?) is another, far more serious matter, and it’s likely why we’ll be hearing nothing from him until after the Wembley final has been played and the trophy presented.
Would Guardiola ever divulge Barcelona’s state secrets to Jupp Heynckes?
The current Bayern boss scoffed at the notion when asked about it following the draw, imploring reporters to “respect” him and his work, adding, “I have never consulted anyone or asked for advice. I do not need anyone to study an opponent.” (Marca)
He most certainly doesn’t, and he has every right to feel incensed at the suggestion he’d consider reaching out for Guardiola’s help ahead of the first leg on April 23.
Heynckes, 67, has won pretty much everything there is to win at club level, both as a player (four Bundesliga titles, the UEFA Cup and the World Cup) and a manager (three Bundesliga titles and the 1998 Champions League with Real Madrid), and just last weekend guided Bayern to the most one-sided league title in Bundesliga history.
But Matthias Sammer, who was appointed sporting director at Bayern last summer, conceded there was an element of discomfort in the situation.
“It is an ethical question,” he told reporters. “On the one hand Jupp Heynckes is still the Bayern coach and Pep is only joining in the summer. On the other hand, it is a matter of [self]-respect.” (Marca)
And Guardiola is unlikely to jeopardize both his own reputation and that of his new club by involving himself in Bayern’s preparations over the coming weeks. He also remains on excellent terms with Barcelona—where he won six titles and the Champions League as a player from 1990 to 2001—and isn’t about to risk his legacy at Camp Nou for one or two pointers on how to neutralize this player or that.
While other managers in his position would perhaps have an ax to grind, he bears only goodwill towards his former club, where he remains an iconic figure.
Bayern are an excellent side in their own right and will pose a big enough test for Barcelona without Guardiola’s help. Guardiola’s job will be to ensure he enables similar success when he takes the reins from Heynckes at the end of next month.