When he leaves Bayern Munich this summer, coach Pep Guardiola will be stepping away from a team that’s a potential triple-winner every season. DW’s Jefferson Chase tries to explain why he would throw away such a top job.
As Pep Guardiola’s decision not to extend his contract with Bayern Munich shakes the footballing world, no one will be able to find a convincting explanation as to why he is leaving Munich. And that’s fitting.
For all his fame, the Catalan football philosopher remains an enigma. He may have spent part of his sabbatical year learning German ahead of taking up the Bayern job in 2013, but he never seems to have really assimilated into Bavaria or the Bundesliga. He’s visibly uncomfortable speaking the language, and his pained expression during the team’s annual visits to the Oktoberfest almost cried out: Why do I have to wear lederhosen and drink this fizzy yellow wine they call Hefeweizen? Mia san mia may be Bayern’s slogan, but Pep never seemed very interested in bring part of the chummy Bavarian “There’s only one us” love-fest.
Obviously, that’s because he’s a private guy. In hundreds of press conferences over the past years, Guardiola has revealed next to nothing about himself, and there was no explanation accompanying the club’s announcement on Sunday. Sports journalists can only do what they do so often: speculate. Does he fear that he cannot achieve his sporting ambitions in Munich? Or is it perhaps that he feels winning titles with the Bavarians might be a bit too easy?
A team too rampant?
The accepted wisdom on Pep is that he’s a coach who puts playing style above results. When he arrived three years ago, most people expected him to try to install a version of Barcelona tiki-taka on Säbener Street. Guardiola’s Bayern did play possession football, but their passing was far more forward and direct than the compact triangles that frustrated opponents in Camp Nou. And it was too much – way, way too much – for the rest of the Bundesliga.
The moment that served notice of what was to come was Guardiola’s first clash against Jürgen Klopp and Dortmund in November 2013. The 3-0 win for Bayern is best remembered for Mario Götze coming off the bench to score against his old club. But the real story was how Guardiola adjusted his tactics, abandoning short passes for long balls that rendering Dortmund’s hyperactive high-pressing useless.
Klopp’s Dortmund would never again present any threat to Bayern’s dominance, not would any of the Bundesliga’s other clubs. The irony is that, for some critics, the lack of competition domestically somewhat tarnished the two Bundesliga titles Guardiola won. At least with Barcelona, Guardiola had Real Madrid as a rival. Bayern no longer have any rivals in Germany.
“Maybe I will go to a country where a kit-man can be a coach and win the title,” former Chelsea coach José Mourinho sneered in Guardiola’s direction after last season. “Maybe I need to be smarter, but I still enjoy these difficulties.”
Could it be that life at Bayern Munich is a bit too easy?
Extra motivation for the big prize?
There are blank checks waiting for the Catalan coach in Manchester (at both City and United) and at Stamford Bridge, if he decides he fancies the Premier League as a challenge. Before then, he has a bit of unfinished business left in Bavaria.
In the past two seasons, a pattern had emerged. Bayern’s domestic dominance has ensured that they’ve wrapped up the Bundesliga title early in the spring, at which point intensity has dropped and Munich has failed to perform as well as they could have in the Champions League. Perhaps, Guardiola reckons he can give his charges a bit of added motivation by announcing his departure – much as Klopp did with Dortmund last season.
In any case, Guardiola’s tenure at Bayern would feel incomplete without the superlative club football title. For all the talk of the Catalan’s legacy at Bayern Munich, his philosophy is as opaque as he himself is as a person. That makes unlikely to be replicated.
Bayern fans will have the chance to enjoy Guardiola’s football for another six months. Then he will leave – without anyone having really gotten to know him.