Pep Guardiola probably thought to himself and concluded that there were riches in the game to be uncovered away from his home in Catalonia and the enticing English Premier League. It seems as though in recent years the Bundesliga has sparked a new sense of excitement for football among some, coincidently running parallel with Guardiola’s Barcelona.
The viewpoint of those in England following Guardiola’s decision to go to Germany, however, has been a little astounding – and that stretches from fans to the media. It’s perceived that Guardiola is simply off to Bayern to keep himself busy until an English job becomes available; as if there are no positive draws to the rising German league.
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But English football is too proud, perhaps even bordering on naive. How dare Guardiola snub the Premier League for a league that is inferior in every way, and where his next destination will offer very little in the way of challenges? Bayern Munich has reached two Champions League finals in the past three years, while they are the biggest and most successful team in Germany. Even with Borussia Dortmund holding the last two domestic titles, what exactly can Guardiola as a manager gain from taking up a position at the Allianz Arena?
There was more. Perhaps he wasn’t really that good. He’s destined to fail without Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta – a nonsensical notion. Some have even said they’re bored of all this Guardiola talk now. Funnily, would supporters share the same belief if Guardiola had turned up at their club in England this summer? Unlikely.
Maybe it’s just bitterness, and that’s ok. But the whole thing just smacks of disrespect to a league and a country which so many are looking to emulate.
What does Guardiola get by moving to Bayern? For starters, the job is far more secure than anything currently available in England. As much as Roman Abramovich would have wanted it, Guardiola to Chelsea never seemed quite right. And this isn’t to say Pep will never arrive in England in the future; he’s a young manager that has plenty of time on his side. But he’s thought long enough on this move to Germany – since last May, according to reports – and the setup in Bavaria became hugely attractive to the Catalan.
But the bigger picture is that Bayern are more than just a football club in Germany. Just like Barcelona in Spain and Ajax in Holland. It’s a club run by football people, and specifically those who wore the colours of the club during their playing days. To reiterate points I’ve made in the past: it’s incredibly important to have former players in prominent roles at a club, not only for stability and drive, but also for tradition.
Bayern Munich have a tradition; one, in fact, which isn’t too dissimilar to that of Barcelona. Both clubs have had Louis van Gaal as manager, who enforced that Johan Cruyff model on the playing staff. At Barcelona it’s much more obvious, but there are familiar comforts awaiting Guardiola when he arrives in the summer.
Maybe some will say that it’s too easy to go to teams like Bayern with the apparent lack of competition in the Bundesliga and the wealth of the club. Well to that I’d say Guardiola’s best work arguably came when dealing with products of the Barcelona youth system. In Germany, clubs will look to supplement transfers with those from youth academies. Bayern have players like Emre Can coming through, and they’ve also been in pursuit of Bochum’s Leon Goretzka. Guardiola will also have a big task of separating those he wishes to retain from those who could potentially cause disruptions in the future.
Nothing is certain for Pep at Bayern Munich, and it’s going to be far from a walk in the park.
It’s also interesting that perhaps Guardiola’s rivalry with Jose Mourinho played a hand in him opting for Germany rather than England. That’s speculation, of course, but recent Clasicos would indicate that Guardiola would prefer to remain well away from the Portuguese for the foreseeable future.
But it’s the incredible attention to detail Bayern have, just like Barcelona. The Bavarians are not going to throw all their eggs in one basket, or swing blindly and hope for the best – it’s just not their style. It would seem inappropriate for Guardiola to be reckless in his decision, just as it would have been had he gone into a game as Barcelona manager unprepared, no matter who the opposition were.
Pep Guardiola doesn’t need Lionel Messi to be successful wherever he goes. Alex Ferguson has had to part with great players in the past, and other good managers in Europe – some of the best, in fact – have built their reputation without the world’s best player. What Guardiola does need, however, is a unified club, a club who are willing to let him manage his way, and yet who also share similar approaches.
It’s not the first time that the Premier League has been made to look second best in recent months. Guardiola’s decision to move to Germany just provides greater evidence that there is life outside of England.