Sunday, 20 January 2013


Pep Guardiola got the trophy cabinet at Barcelona packed full in his three year stint at the Club, why do you think that happened ? What was the reason behind Bayern Munich's appointment of the Spaniard as their manager next season, and what are they expecting from him ?

Pep Guardiola had become the most sought after coach since he took a well deserved sabbatical break. He was linked to most of the managerial posts at the biggest European Clubs - particularly Manchester City, Chelsea, and AC Millan.  It was much publicized that Roman Abramovich had offered him the Chelsea Manager's job; the whole idea being to transform Chelsea into playing the Barcelona way. One thing I did admire about Guardiola and his time at Barcelona, is that he always appeared to control his destiny. In other words, He bossed the timings of his contracts and it's duration, never wanted more than a year at a time, and when his fortunes started to flat line, he decided he wanted out. In the world of soccer management, it's not the norm to be in control of circumstances, especially as it concerns the when and how.

BACKGROUND:  Too many ignore the antecedence to Pep Guardiola's startling success at Barcelona, catapulting him to the mega star status of a soccer coach he now enjoys. Barcelona's playing method has been a work in progress for almost forty years, going back to when Dutch Legend Rinus Michels stepped into Camp Nou in 1971. Guardiola was bred in this special philosophy, played in it, and ultimately enhanced it when he managed the Club, culminating in their most successful era yet... The wider issue here, that seekers of Guardiola's expertise may not process, is that the man is ingrained in the Barcelona way, and you have to be careful with your expectations.

BAYERN MUNICH:  No doubt, outstanding, Germany's most successful Club, and a shinning light of European soccer. Who doesn't admire and respect what the Bavarian club represent. It's stability, stature, consistency, broad fan base, and The Allianze Arena is a magnificent stadium.
What Pep Guardiola would not have missed about his new employers, is that in the last forty eight years, the average duration of a manger at the Club is about two years, and only seven managers in that period, never managed to win a trophy for the club, and they had very short reigns indeed. That crystalizes the fact that they are a club synonymous with success - managers come and leave, the expectations / success rate tend to be the same. Their greatest managers remain Udo Lattek and Ottmar Hitzfeld who both won multiple Bundesliga Titles and took the club to be  Champions of Europe in their respective managerial spells.

DOUBTS : For whatever reason, Bayern Munich and Pep Guardiola have embarked on this working relationship, but it just has that odd feel to it. For Bayern, It's not the first time they have sought the services of a Marquee foreign manager. I still remember eye brows raised when they recruited Italian  Giovanni Trapattoni  in 1994, and his travails with the German language, and the general inadequacy in communicating with his players led him to quit after a barren year in charge at the club. In 2009, when Louis van Gaal was made coach, the Dutchman mentioned Bayern Munich as a "dream club ". Maybe too often, these heavy weight coaches get sucked-in to the allure of managing the Bavarians; they seem to misunderstand the task at hand. It is: "take us to the next level, or you are out" in Munich That was the fate Louis van Gaal met with when he struggled in his second season. For those who need reminding : Guardiola played under Louis van Gaal at Barcelona. At that time, one of Europe's most talented coaches, and spoken about in the same breathless fashion Guardiola is at the moment.
We must all get a grip, and realize PEP has only managed for three years, albeit spectacularly successful ones

Read : Have Barcelona peaked ?

If Bayern think they are on to a coach who is going to replicate Barcelona, or perhaps take them to the next level applying some formula of sorcery,  then they have the next six months to do some soul searching. The squad PEP  had at Barcelona was an exceptional one, with the best player in the world - Lionel Messi in it, and happened at a time when Spain were ( and still are ) producing the best players in Europe. Those ingredients do not exist in Bavaria.  The chances of Bayern looking like Barcelona is zero. On the other hand,  if Guardiola is  thinking that Bayern is a bastion of civility in their relationship with managers, he might find out they are just another wolf in sheep clothing. It's customary for most Bayern Munich managers to win the Bundesliga, but Felix Magath was the last one to spend three years there ( 2004 - 2007 ).  It's fair not to expect too much from Guardiola, and it's looking like he'll be a victim of his own success. His managerial career is very much just starting. The slate has to be wiped clean, and the past forgotten; this is a whole new ball game, and a very uncertain one. His reputation shouldn't precede him. Working outside Barcelona and their unique philosophy would not be an easy feat, even if everyone is hoodwinked Bayern Munich is a magnanimous and cosy environment for the ex Barcelona coach

PREFERENCE : Coaches are no magicians. You may have  genius in a player like Lionel Messi, coaches unfortunately do not exist in that range. The challenge for PEP at Bayern Munich will be a completely different one, and in some ways, more steep, particularly from a socio-cultural and tactical point of view. Coaching theories are great, but you need the vehicle to convey them. Do not underestimate the differences PEP would experience in Munich, and how it potentially could impact on this "plush" job he has just taken.
If I was his advisor, AC Milan would have been my suggestion to him. Their record with managers is more attractive, historically a more glamorous club, the socio-cultural ambience more suited, from a tactical approach, Italy would have been perfect for him to continue his education, and the fact that Milan is a sleeping giant right now, would have made it the right sort of Challenge to take PEP to the next level, or at the minimum,  keep the PEP myth intact.  Let's see how it all develops from here.