Pep Guardiola caused something of a stir in his Friday press conference when he told reporters that winning trophies wasn’t the only thing that mattered about professional football.
“Winning titles is obviously nice, but that’s not what it’s all about in the end,” he told Goal. “What matters most to me is that your players tell you at some point, ‘Coach, you have really helped me become a better player. I have learned a lot from you.’ That’s what makes me happy.”
Given a preseason in which Bayern Munich haven’t exactly resembled the side that won an unprecedented treble in the spring, you can understand why the club’s new manager would look to play down the considerable expectation he faces in his first campaign at the helm.
It was only a few months ago, after all, that Bayern were stringing together some of the most dominating performances in the history of club football, and with the likes of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara brought in to bolster an already otherworldly squad of players, Guardiola risks being seen as something of a failure if he doesn’t replicate the recent success.
Having said that, the 42-year-old isn’t wrong in insisting that football, and all sport, is about more than merely winning.
The 1982 Brazil team that both thrilled its own supporters and won over the admiration of countless neutrals is a prime example.
Beaten 3-2 by eventual World Cup winners Italy in Barcelona, Brazil nevertheless left an indelible mark on the tournament with the imaginative, joyful football the likes of Falcao, Socrates and Zico created.
In fact, that Brazil side is arguably more closely linked with a World Cup it lost than the side that went on to win it. So when Guardiola insists that winning isn’t everything, he’s only saying what many people already know deep down.
It’s the perceived self-serving context of his comments that have Bayern fans a bit worked up. And until he makes a contribution to the club’s trophy cabinet, his Bayern teams will exist in the shadow of last year’s—no matter the sort of football they happen to play.