Pep Guardiola Prepared to Quit Bayern Munich Amid Mounting Criticism

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Munich head coach Pep Guardiola signs an autograph prior to the German soccer cup, DFB Pokal, semifinal  match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Kaiserslautern in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, on Wednesday, April 16. 2014. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Kerstin Joensson

It's hard to imagine any discontent at Bayern Munich this season. After all, the team won the Bundesliga with seven games to spare—the fastest the title has ever been clinched—has reached the DFB Pokal final and faces Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals.

The German giants are in line for a treble, led by first-year manager Pep Guardiola, who is surely a hero amongst the supporters and club. Or is he?

Last month, the club's honorary president, Franz Beckenbauer, had to clarify comments that sounded as though he was insulting the style of play Guardiola brought to the club. And there has also been disappointment in the club's recent play in the league, having lost twice and drawn once in their last three Bundesliga matches.

Guardiola decided to address any criticisms levied at him on Wednesday, and made it known in no uncertain terms that he would be willing to move on if that was best for him and the club. From Dermot Corrigan of ESPN:

Asked about the latest criticism of his methods at a news conference on Wednesday, Guardiola told reporters that he found some of the negativity hard to take and was prepared to move on if the club wanted a change.

"I have to accept the criticism," Guardiola said. "I tell myself 'Pep, calm down'. You are here to work as well as possible, and my best talent is work, work, work. I am here to help the club, and if the club do not want me, a handshake and no problem for me.”

The quotes were made in English, and mostly missed by the local German reports, while Catalan paper Mundo Deportivo picked them up but did point out that Guardiola was talking "without bitterness or tension."

Chances are Guardiola isn't going anywhere. While he has changed Bayern's style of play to a certain degree upon his arrival, it would be hard to argue that the team is suddenly unwatchable or, more importantly, ineffective. While they aren't likely to reach the 98 goals they scored a season ago, notching 82 goals in 30 league games thus far hardly seems dull.

Raphael Honigstein of The Guardian talked about the club's recent struggles under Guardiola:

Despite his public show of contrition, it is hard to tell how concerned the coach really is. The 43-year-old obviously felt that his team needed a breather, and he has revealed himself a much more cold-hearted, pragmatic coach than the "Saint Pep" cliche suggested: he's interested in winning titles, first and foremost. So are his employers. The Dortmund game will be quickly forgotten if Bayern reach the finals of the DFB Cup and the Champions League over the next two weeks. In the wider scheme of things it might even be useful. It proved to all of Germany and the rest of football that a few missing percentage points are enough to level the playing field, even if your team is much better. Their run of unbeaten games had blinded many to that principle.

And you could also make a pretty strong argument that putting less of an emphasis on league play with the title already clinched makes sense. Beating rival Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal and focusing on the Champions League should be the top priorities at this point in the season, especially for a team that has played a lot of football over the past two seasons. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 01:  Pep Guardiola head coach of Bayern Muenchen has words with Toni Kroos of Bayern Muenchen during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Manchester United and FC Bayern Muenchen at Old Trafford on Ap
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

But should Guardiola decide to move on, there would be no shortage of suitors gunning for his services. Surely, Barcelona would take them back amidst a disappointing season that will likely leave them without any major trophies. And you have to think Manchester United would at least inquire, as they try to get themselves back to Champions League football next season. 

In other words, Guardiola has the leverage to say to Bayern Munich, "You may not like my style, but I won't change for you." Both the manager and the club probably are hoping it doesn't come down to that sort of showdown. 

But if it does, Guardiola wouldn't shock anyone by simply walking away. After the dominance Bayern Munich have displayed this season, it would be a divorce the club would regret.