Pep Guardiola Enters Last Half-Year at Bayern Munich with Reputation on the Line

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2016

Bayern head coach Pep Guardiola arrives for the German Bundesliga soccer match between Hannover 96 and FC Bayern Munich in Hannover, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Michael Sohn/Associated Press

After what he did at Barcelona, there is no doubting what Pep Guardiola is capable of doing. A treble in 2008-09 followed by a UEFA Champions League-Primera Division double in 2010-11 is incredible. Yet when we think of his greatest achievements, it is those increasingly distant memories that come to mind.

Now in his last half-season at Bayern Munich, Guardiola faces pressure unlike any he's ever seen before. Even as he's fielding big-money offersKicker (h/t Der Spiegel) reported he's agreed to a three-year contract with a €25 million annual wage at Manchester City, while the Daily Mail's Neil Ashton claimed Roman Abramovich will throw any money necessary at the trainer to convince him to join Chelsea—the 44-year-old has to look at the present and consider how his legacy is shaping up to be when he leaves the Allianz Arena.

It will be challenging to leave the club with a lasting positive impression. His predecessor, Jupp Heynckes, left a team of players in their prime who had just won a treble. The bar was sky-high, and many claimed Guardiola would need to win the Champions League in order for his work to be completed.

Many still do believe Europe's most elusive prize is necessary. Others believe that at least a final will be necessary after his predecessors reached three in a span of just four years.

Mark Dannell @mdannell

German media almost universally reporting Guardiola has agreed to take over at Man City and will be paid 25 million Euro per year..

Guardiola, of course, has always been a polarizing figure and will always have his detractors, but the balance perhaps has changed over the last two-and-a-half years. Those who defend him will cite Bayern's consistency in the Bundesliga—they've won two titles under his watch and are well on their way to a third—and cite the chorus of players with nothing but praise to sing for their trainer. This is all very valid.

Yet at the same time, results matter and are all history will remember. In 20 years' time, when a fan glances back on Guardiola's tenure, they'll see the results. Titles in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 Bundesliga campaigns, as well as the 2013-14 DFB-Pokal. Heavy defeats in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 Champions League semifinals.

What's written above is a decent trophy haul by most standards. Yet without a real statement this spring, there won't be a wow factor. Even Guardiola's most ardent supporters regularly admit the trainer has not exactly lived up to expectations; they often make excuses for his shortcomings rather than citing his record.

Excuses will not be remembered in history, only results. And for good reason. Guardiola inherited a treble-winning team with no key players beyond their best years. He signed superstars such as Thiago Alcantara, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski. And rather than making any necessary small alterations, he completely eviscerated the tactical structure of the club.

Guardiola later admitted in Marti Perarnau's book, Pep Confidential: Inside Guardiola's First Season at Bayern Munich (via the Daily Mail) that he was responsible for Bayern's savage Champions League semifinal defeat by Real Madrid in 2013-14: "I got it wrong, man. I got it totally wrong. It's a monumental f--k-up. A total mess. The biggest f--k-up of my life as a coach."

Had he succeeded, the tactical changes would have been justified. He didn't, and they will be remembered as hubris he's been trying to make up for in the time since.

Cutting through all the bias and propaganda, that's where things stand at this point; Guardiola has taken a team at the very top and changed it into something that isn't quite where it was.

This reality isn't consistent with his reputation as the world's best trainer, one who deserves a €25 million-a-year contract. And so he has six months to do what he was signed to do: make a real statement and deliver a wow factor.

The pressure is on. The clock is ticking.



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