Pep Guardiola will be appointed as Bayern Munich manager at the end of the season on the back of fanfare which has only intensified since he began his Manhattan sabbatical at the beginning of last summer. He’s the man to bring the Catalan swagger to Munich, while benefitting the league with glamour and sustained success. But, who is to benefit most from his appointment?
By Ben Loder – @nextmegswins
Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was understandably pleased with himself as he announced that Pep Guardiola would take over as head coach of the Munich giants this summer, boasting: “He will bring glamour not just to Bayern, but to the whole of German football.”
And with those words, he simultaneously hit the nail on the head and quite spectacularly missed the point. After all, the last thing a club referred to colloquially as FC Hollywood needs is an injection of glamour, especially given the apparent desire Rummenigge himself and his boardroom colleagues Uli Hoeneß and Matthias Sammer have to sate even the ravenous German media’s requirements for photo opportunities and sound bites.
What’s more, glamour is not even close to being the main benefit Guardiola will bring to the Bundesliga. Don’t get me wrong – Pep is a well-kempt, cosmopolitan man, but everywhere except the back page of the Bild newspaper, that will be irrelevant. Rummenigge was on the right track in one way however: long term, the 42-year-old’s arrival could be more significant for the Bundesliga as a whole than for the man himself or the club he joins in July.
Why? Let’s take the club first. It’s not true to say that Bayern Munich have always been the biggest club in Germany (after all, they were not even original members of the 1. Bundesliga when it was founded half a century ago), but it sometimes feels that way to my generation. The Borussia Dortmund team Jürgen Klopp has built is certainly the most sincere challenger since the HSV sides of the 1980s, and having been on the brink of non-existence, Dortmund now have the set-up to hang around at the top for some time – but the way this league season has started is proof that, for the foreseeable future, Bayern will be winning trophies. That’s not to say anyone could do it, but anyone they might have appointed would. Of course, if, as seems likely, current incumbent Jupp Heynckes ends the Rekordmeister’s two-year league “drought”, and with the heartbreak of losing their “Finale dahoam” to Chelsea last May still healing, the Champions League will be Guardiola’s main target. But even if Pep sees out his three-year contract, fails every time, and “only” picks up two titles and a couple of cups, the club will still look back on the period as level par.
So for FC Bayern, this is surely just another chapter in an admittedly impressive success story. And for the man in the headlines? As has been pointed out many times in the last few days, it seems a smart move by Guardiola: a fan-owned club with a solid base, money available and, compared to the Premier League possibilities touted, a sane board. And unless those who claim anyone could have won trophies with that Barca team are proved right – against all odds might I add – and Pep truly is massively overrated, trophies will come. Don’t get me wrong – Bayern is a massive job, and they don’t take second place lightly. What’s more, as a relatively inexperienced manager, moving to a new country with a new footballing language and culture is no easy task. This is not the “bottle job” some have suggested.
For the first time in his managerial career, Guardiola has signed a three-year deal and, from what we know of his character, he won’t just treat this club as a stepping stone on the way to another ultimate goal. But at the same time, he won’t see it as his pinnacle – that has either passed (which would be no cause for shame; his Barcelona side will join the Magnificent Magyars, Brazil ‘70 and ‘82, and Michels’ Holland and Ajax sides with a prime spot among the pantheon of greats), or will come when he does in fact succeed and match Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, or perhaps returns to the Nou Camp and does it all again, only better and without Leo Messi. Despite their Hollywood reputation, Bayern in fact have a strong youth system that brought through the likes of Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger – if Pep moves away from the big-money buys and successfully turns the existing basis into a Barcelona-style production line, he could lay the foundations for even greater dominance long after he moves on. But the results of such foresight won’t be seen overnight. All of which means that, whatever happens (and I will gladly eat these words if Bayern win the league and Champions League double for the next three seasons), Guardiola’s time at the Allianz Arena will probably be little more than a footnote in both stories.
So what about the wider picture? The Bundesliga’s stock has been rising in recent times and this season, for the first time in many years, two German teams are among the favourites to conquer Europe. Nevertheless, much of the focus during transfer windows tends to be on when, rather than if, the likes of Mario Götze will make the “big move” to England. The arrival of Guardiola will cement the BuLi’s place as one of the best leagues in Europe, and up against the duopoly in Spain, the anarchy of EPL defending and the underrated play but scandal- and debt-ridden establishment of Serie A, will boost its claim to be the best – but that’s another debate. The long-term effect of the appointment will come down to two factors: how will Pep change Bayern, and how will their challengers react?
As has been mentioned, with his commitment to cultivating a lasting club culture and the financial benefits his presence will bring, the potential is there for Guardiola to create a framework that will ensure increased Bayern dominance for many years. However, Germany’s relatively even distribution of TV money (the difference from top to bottom in cash received is around 10× greater in Spain) means there is an opportunity for the whole league to move up a notch in terms of quality.
So will the rest of the league use the cash brought in by The Guardiola Factor on wages and transfer fees in order to keep up and become the “next Bayern”? Or follow Pep’s lead from his time in Catalonia and invest in youth? The answer will surely differ from club to club, but there are several factors that point towards option two in the majority of cases. Firstly, the German Football League (DFL) insisted a decade ago that all professional clubs open a Performance Centre to develop players – the clubs have embraced the system, invested around a billion euros into the scheme, and many are reaping the rewards – with more money available, it seems sensible to further improve these facilities. Secondly, the 50+1 rule that keeps clubs majority-owned by fans helps to avoid the unsustainable billionaires’ transfer “strategy” that Pep chose to steer clear of (though recent events at Bayern’s neighbours 1860 suggest the rules may need tightening). And finally, there are the two sides of the Bayern–Dortmund rivalry.
It was revealed last year that the Bavarians loaned Borussia €2 million to help them stave off bankruptcy in 2003. Now the Ruhr club are back with a vengeance, and Bayern’s latest appointment, designed to get them on top of the pile again, may inadvertently also bring the money and reflected prestige to ensure that the Schwarzgelben, and any other club savvy enough, will be competing with them at the highest level long after Pep Guardiola takes his next sabbatical.
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