Could Carlo Ancelotti Be a Better Fit for Bayern Munich Than Pep Guardiola?April 13, 2016
When Pep Guardiola left Barcelona four years ago, he was afforded a farewell like no other. A crowd of nearly 100,000 attended the city derby against Espanyol, but those fans weren’t really there for the match. They were there to say goodbye to the man who came to define the club’s modern era.
Guardiola’s name was chanted for nearly two hours solid, a stage was rolled out for the man himself to address the crowd from, there was even an emotional montage of his greatest Barca moments set to a Coldplay soundtrack. Barca had lost one of its own, even if Guardiola proclaimed, “you'll never lose me.”
The scene will be very different when Guardiola closes the door behind him at Bayern Munich this summer. While the 45-year-old was, and still is, something of a spiritual leader at the Camp Nou, he is seen in a contrasting way in Germany. The Bavarians might even be glad to see the back of Guardiola.
It’s not that he has been a failure at the Allianz Arena. Guardiola will have won three successive Bundesliga titles by the time he leaves the club—and he might even have led Bayern Munich to Champions League glory, with the Bavarians still in the latter stages of the competition. Disgruntlement with the Spaniard is about more than just results.
His relationship with the German media has always been a prickly one, with the treble that his predecessor Jupp Heynckes won setting an almost impossible benchmark for Guardiola’s tenure. Anything less than such a glorious triumph will be deemed a failure and so the Bayern boss has just a few months left to render himself a success in Bavaria.
At Barcelona, Guardiola was the system. But with Bayern Munich, Guardiola is just one part of the club’s system. While he has undoubtedly developed the playing style and ideology of the club, he is only a mere component of the Bavarians’ wider infrastructure. In a way, he has been little more than a mercenary for Bayern.
Such a term is often loaded, but in the case of the Bundesliga champions it can actually be considered an accolade. It’s why Carlo Ancelotti—Guardiola’s lined-up replacement—is likely to succeed at Bayern Munich. It’s why the Bavarians can chop and change their managers every few years without impacting on their standing as Germany’s predominant force.
Guardiola is a commodity as much as anything else. Clubs seek him so desperately for what he represents rather than what he actually achieves—although what he achieves is certainly nothing to be understated. It’s why Manchester City have essentially modelled their entire infrastructure around what they believe Guardiola would demand upon his inevitable arrival.
Ancelotti is a very different kind of football coach. He is indeed an unashamed mercenary having taken charge of Europe’s biggest and best clubs over the course of his managerial career, with AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid all listed on his resume. Now he will complete his footballing Top Trumps by coaching in the Bundesliga, the final league of Europe’s big five that he has yet to compete in.
Stylistically, the Italian is a much more conventional coach than Guardiola. He uses players in their traditional positions, with his 4-2-3-1 formation often moving into a fluid 4-3-3. Philipp Lahm might even be returned to his role as a right-back after three years in the centre of Bayern Munich’s midfield.
"Carlo's a calm, balanced and proven expert, who knows how to deal with stars and favours a multifaceted playing style—we were looking for this and we've found it,” Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said upon the announcement of Ancelotti’s appointment for the 2016/17 season, as per Rob Hughes of the New York Times.
Some viewed such a statement as something of an elbow into the ribs of Guardiola, whose Bayern teams have been predictable and easy to counter against a higher caliber of opposition in the semi-finals of the Champions League (Real Madrid and Barcelona in successive seasons). Ancelotti’s teams are more adaptable.
The Italian will likely be a more popular figure with the Bayern Munich support, particularly after the reign of Guardiola’s grating egotism. The former Barca boss critically damaged his legacy in Bavaria earlier this year by teasing out the destination of his next club, admitting “I want to coach in England” as his club faced a pivotal juncture of their season, as per BBC Sport. The timing was certainly questionable and drew criticism.
This only added to the Bavarian sense that Guardiola is only treating Bayern Munich as a placeholder before he makes the move to the Premier League, with the Spaniard seemingly falling out of love with whatever it was about the German club he found so compelling in the first place. At times, he comes across as almost disinterested.
For a figure of Guardiola’s usual intensity, that is uncharacteristic. There have been several public moments of frustration and exasperation, with his outburst prior to a game against Bayer Leverkusen providing a watershed in his final Bundesliga season. "Head coaches don't get any respect anymore," he snapped. "It doesn't matter what we say. I don't know why managers give press conferences anymore.”
Guardiola has made enemies in Germany, not least within his own club. His decision to exile world renowned and revered club doctor Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt was a particularly damaging one, with the public spat between the two figures reflecting badly on the Bayern Munich boss. Ancelotti won’t be such a confrontational personality (even if Florentino Perez found a way to fall out with the Italian).
At the Allianz Arena, Ancelotti will find a squad well-suited to his demands as a coach. Xabi Alonso might well have signed a new contract with the club in December purely in anticipation of his former Real Madrid manager’s arrival at Bayern Munich.
Kingsley Coman, Medhi Benatia and Arturo Vidal—all players the Italian coach will know from Serie A—might also await Ancelotti’s arrival with expectation, as the German champions in-waiting measure the legacy Guardiola leaves. It’s possible that Ancelotti might be a better fit at Bayern Munich than Guardiola ever was.