Champions League Final Is the Minimum Requirement for Guardiola at Bayern Munich

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Champions League Final Is the Minimum Requirement for Guardiola at Bayern Munich
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Bayern Munich’s 2014-15 season begins on Wednesday when the German giants look to avenge last year’s DFL-Superpokal loss with a victory over Dortmund. An early first title would be encouraging for Pep Guardiola’s men, but regardless of the result, there will be bigger and more important matches later in the season.

Looking forward to the upcoming campaign, Bayern will expect to win the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal each for the third consecutive season. But their main target should be to reach the Champions League final.

Last season was business as usual in German competition. Bayern won their second consecutive domestic double, securing the Bundesliga in record time and edging BVB in extra time in the Pokal final. The Champions League was a different story, however, with the club stumbling once or twice before being defeated 5-0 in the last four.

The result marked just the second time since 2009-10 that the club failed to reach the final, with Louis van Gaal and Jupp Heynckes (twice) having managed the feat previously.

The domestic double should not be underestimated; it’s by no means a certainty and not just any coach could lead Bayern to glory in German competitions. But many could. Guardiola was hired on more than triple his predecessor’s salary to not just simply win domestic titles; he was hired to take Bayern to the next level and make the club a bigger international presence.

It will be tougher for Bayern to succeed internationally in the upcoming season, with clubs like Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona each having significantly strengthened their ranks during the summer transfer window. At the same time, Guardiola has had a year’s experience at Bayern and three transfer windows with which to fashion a treble-winning squad into his particular brand of treble-winners.

The ex-Barcelona man is widely regarded as an elite coach and was already given his “free pass” in April, the gut-wrenching defeat to Real glossed over by the club’s domestic success. If he is to be the best, he’ll have to beat the best: that includes Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti at Champions League holders Real—both, like Guardiola, have squads that are absolutely stacked with talent—and others.

Although Guardiola has two years left on his contract, the time has come to lead Bayern to reassert themselves among the out-and-out favorites for Champions League glory. Largely credited as the creator of the modern Bayern, Van Gaal coached the club to the final in his first season. Heynckes failed to replicate the Dutchman’s success in the first try but exceeded his predecessor in his second season with a treble.

To expect Guardiola to win the treble or even the Champions League alone would be a step too far. The final is a one-off, and too many intangibles can affect the game. Many great and worthy teams and coaches have fallen at the final hurdle, Heynckes’ 2011-12 team in particular coming to mind.

The group stage and each knockout round prior to the final will be the aggregate of multiple games, however. Bayern will have at least two opportunities to show their best form and secure passage to the next stage.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently told Welt Am Sonntag (h/t The Guardian) that Bayern will never fire Guardiola, but the club CEO’s patience may be tested if the German giants are unable to assert themselves on the international stage as they did under Van Gaal and Heynckes.

Considering all their individual class, experience at the highest level and understanding of one another, Guardiola has more than enough resources at his disposal to lead the club to success. This season will prove whether he’s able to translate success in multiple arenas, as Ancelotti, Mourinho, Heynckes and Van Gaal have, or whether he’s more of a one-team coach.

 

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