Pep Guardiola's hardest ride at Bayern Munich starts now
Assessing Pep Guardiola and his era at Bayern Munich might be complicated. Has the 45-year-old football mastermind been successful in his three years or not? Was the Catalonian the right coach at the right time?
Looking at the upcoming months, Guardiola and Bayern face maybe the toughest challenge ever. You might say there is just a job to do. Sure there is, but the situation couldn't be more complex as Guardiola will leave this summer with Carlo Ancelotti replacing him, reports Xinhua.
When considering Guardiola's Bavarian era, winning the Champions League or failing again might help to create answers. The next four months will be Guardiola's hardest ride in his career so far.
The most important question -- is it enough when you can call a coach a development worker at this high level or is it vital that you win international titles besides the national successes?
Bayern’s reincarnation under Guardiola
It seems to be the key question and a heavy burden on the shoulders of all in Munich. In 2013 Jupp Heynckes achieved what Guardiola is dreaming of despite the latter seemingly hiding his true feelings by statements that try to indicate a man at ease. Heynckes, knowing he would leave, won the treble.
"Titles are just numbers. Football is emotion," said Guardiola recently. He asked to be admired for the "football my team plays, not for the trophies I won, titles are nothing".
He is both right and wrong. A coach taking over a club like Bayern Munich has to win international titles. That is part of his profile. Looking at Bayern's style with Guardiola in charge, even critical pundits must admit; Bayern's play has never before been of such beauty. Under Guardiola, Bayern has no longer been accused of playing ice-cold football and being lucky. Non-Bayern fans called it 'Bayern-luck.
But after all, Guardiola was employed to develop Bayern Munich, which he has undoubtedly done when it comes to tactics and flexibility. Bayern need and wanted a figure like him to push the club forward to new heights.
Bayern wanted to close the gap to the big boys like Real Madrid and Barcelona. Today you would say, they have, but the final proof is still lacking. It will come if Bayern reverses previous results when they were painfully beaten in the past two years by Real and Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals.
Today judgement on him has changed. Guardiola is seen less than a magical coach but more as a pragmatist who is not inevitably part of the furniture standing for emotions. This has turned out to be a certain problem in a club built on emotions and "homemade" world class stars.
Guardiola lets on only very little keeping most of his thoughts to himself. His next challenge will be not to lose a team of individuals that have a high amount of self-motivation and keep an eye on team spirit. Not all of Bayern's top players are sad about him leaving (for instance Franck Ribery). Guardiola has to watch his relationship to every squad member until he leaves.
After all Bayern and Guardiola for the rest of their time together can be seen as a partnership of convenience that has been through a lot of power struggles after Guardiola tried to test his influence within the club before being limited by the bosses when it came to transfer decision-making and the battles with the team doctor.
Hesitating to make a clear statement and stay longer, Guardiola first lost a lot of sympathy and the understanding of Uli Hoeness. But now the former club president is the man everybody is counting on as he will leave jail after serving the two-year sentence for tax offences.
When the second half of Bundesliga kicks-off with Bayern Munich's game in Hamburg, the imminent return of Hoeness (until now responsible for the club's youth teams) might help solve possible problems during the last metres of Guardiola and Bayern. The first serious test is waiting when Guardiola and Bayern meet Juventus in Turin in mid-February and mid-March in the Round of 16 in Champions League.
What Guardiola and Bayern need to do is to create a happy end. They have to be aware that partnerships in football are contracts for a certain time, but not always a long-lasting love affair.
At the end, Guardiola will have won several titles with Bayern and everyone has to decide if it was an inspiring and successful time together, no matter the number of titles.