In the end, Pep played it safe. Keen to cut short his New York sabbatical and begin planning for next season, Guardiola’s apparent wealth of options were eventually restricted to Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Milan. By rejecting greater riches in favour of the most sensible, albeit seemingly left-field choice, he has further enhanced his saintly aura and will also encounter a role very similar to the position he vacated at Barcelona.
The Bavarian giants are fiercely proud of their regional identity, a quality sure to appeal to the born and bred Catalan Guardiola. They have the best youth set-up in Germany, maintaining a consistent ethos from the youth sides through to the senior squad, within a structure established by former Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal. Despite Borussia Dortmund’s recent domestic success, Bayern also remain the dominant force in German football and entered the winter break with a nine point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, 12 ahead of the reigning champions.
The club is Financial Fair Play compliant and have reported a profit in each of the last 20 years. They have become a mainstay in the upper echelons of the Deloitte Money League, currently placed fourth behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United. Their average attendance is also the fourth highest in Europe and their match day income is substantially larger than their domestic competitors.
Half-owned by the Bayern fans, the club maintain strong links with the community while honouring tradition and history by appointing significant former players in key roles. Uli Hoeness is president while Franz Beckenbauer is the honorary president, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is chief executive and Matthias Sammer, a former German international of note, is the current sporting director. Guardiola may have plenty of egos to contend with at ‘FC Hollywood’ but he will find that the club is also well represented within the corridors of power. Rummenigge is the current chairman of the European Club Association, who are at the forefront of enforcing forthcoming financial regulations, that should ensure Bayern’s supremacy for the foreseeable future.
With Bayern’s dominance so great and their future prosperity assured, it begs the question as to whether Bayern actually need Guardiola. Jupp Heynckes led the club to the Champions League final last season and despite claiming that the current campaign would be his last, with his contract expiring in the summer, he had recently suggested that he may have been willing to continue. He could now win everything on offer and would still be upstaged by Guardiola’s arrival.
Keen to adopt a model akin to Barcelona, Manchester City recruited Ferran Soriano and Txiki Bergistain, formerly of Barcelona, as directors. The hope that these appointments would entice Guardiola proved fruitless and Chelsea were also rebuffed, despite Pep previously confessing a desire to manage a London club. More than willing to embrace a challenge as a player, turning out for both Brescia and Al-Ahli, there were plenty of interesting, available options elsewhere.
A big rebuilding job is required at Milan and Massimiliano Allegri’s perilous position saw Silvio Berlusconi unsuccessfully approach Guardiola. After such an impressive campaign last season, Athletic Bilbao also appear to be in decline under the maverick stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa. Guardiola has previously claimed that the exclusively Basque side is the only other Spanish team he would be willing to manage, a role presenting a unique challenge.
A glowing recommendation from close friend Raul is believed to have been instrumental in Guardiola’s decision and Gelsenkirchen would have been an exciting German destination. Schalke have recently parted company with Huub Stevens, despite finishing third last season. With average attendances in excess of 61,000, the club has huge potential but has not won the league title since 1958. Schalke would have presented Guardiola with a considerable challenge and the opportunity to make his mark at a club starved of success. Bayern is already a well-oiled machine – it may prove difficult to gage his actual influence.
Mercifully sparing us from a summer of shameless flirting, Guardiola has committed to a lucrative three-year deal, after previously requesting a rolling one-year contract at Barcelona. With a successful stint all but guaranteed, Guardiola has chosen a job where he can maintain or enhance his brand for the foreseeable future. His task is to go one better than Heynckes and win the Champions League. Should he achieve this feat, he may find that some of the juicier, currently unavailable Premier League roles may subsequently materialise.
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