Bayern Munich: Champions League Title Gives Pep Guardiola Tough Act to Follow
The frightening part is that Bayern Munich might only be better next season. The catch is that their new manager almost certainly can't be that.
Bayern Munich won their fifth European title Saturday with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund in a thrilling and tightly contested UEFA Champions League final at London's Wembley Stadium. Arjen Robben assisted the opener and scored the winner as both he and his team earned redemption for the excruciating failures of the recent past.
Along the touchline, another tale took shape as the outgoing architect, retiring manager Jupp Heynckes, celebrated the second of what could be three trophies won in a profoundly dominant season.
Already champions of Germany in record style, Heynckes' Bayern steamrolled to the Champions League final with authoritative two-legged victories over European powers Juventus and Barcelona in the knockout rounds. And with Dortmund now conquered, only Stuttgart in next weekend's German Cup final can prevent Bayern from claiming their historic treble and a place among Europe's greatest-ever teams.
For his part, Heynckes is not far behind. Also a Champions League winner with Real Madrid in 1998, Heynckes now can claim two European titles, three Bundesliga crowns and much of the credit for Bayern's potential place in history.
Even for a manager of Pep Guardiola's talents, that leaves little room for improvement.
Jupp Heynckes is some coach. Also won Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998. Has improved Bayern greatly. Velvet takeover for Guardiola.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) May 25, 2013
Ok Pep. Beat that— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) May 25, 2013
Guardiola, the 42-year-old tiki-taka mastermind who authored FC Barcelona's recent run of 14 major titles in four years, is set to take over from Heynckes a month and a day after Saturday's final (per BBC Sport). And so, for a month and a day, Guardiola will ponder one improbably unlikely fact.
The man who won everything with Barcelona can now do little—if anything—to improve on what Heynckes did this season.
Not that he won't have the ammunition. Bayern have already announced the signing of Mario Gotze from Dortmund in a €37 million deal (per BBC Sport), ensuring their closest competitors in both Germany and Europe will take the pitch without their best player next season. Even better for Bayern and worse for the rest, Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski—scorer of four brilliant goals against Real Madrid in the semifinals—could be next.
Add that to Bayern's productive youth academy and a supremely talented core of players that won the Bundesliga by 25 points: Together, they hint at the strong possibility that Bayern could maintain this level for the next half-decade or more. With Guardiola in charge, the winning will surely continue. And with redemption secured on Saturday, Bayern should now break free from any doubts that remained from 2010 and 2012.
As for Heynckes' legacy, this season's broken records and stockpiling silverware tell the story. Perhaps no man, not even Pep, could have done better and left Bayern healthier. At 68, Heynckes might have more managing in him, but with Guardiola on the way, it won't be with Bayern. And after 34 years on the touchline, a treble would be the most sublime of send-offs.
That last part is still a work in progress, of course. But at this point it seems only a miracle could keep Bayern from finishing off their destiny.
And thanks to Heynckes, Guardiola would need a miracle to top it.
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