BERLIN (Reuters) – Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Bayern Munich in July 2013 was intended to herald the start of an extended period of European domination for the Bavarians, but while they have maintained their domestic stranglehold, continental success has so far eluded the charismatic Spaniard.
Having arrived immediately after Bayern’s treble winning campaign, the 44-year-old coach on Sunday decided to call it quits at the end of the season, having as yet not succeeded in claiming Europe’s top club prize during his three-year spell in the Bavarian capital.
His legacy at the club, however, remains resolutely positive having claimed back-to-back Bundesliga titles and a German Cup in his first two seasons, further strengthening Bayern’s grip on domestic competitions.
In his first season in charge he broke the record for the fastest run to the Bundesliga title and extended Bayern’s dominance in the following campaign as defeats became increasingly rare and goals flowed freely.
His record in the transfer market was equally impressive, bringing players to the club who went on to become resounding successes such as Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman among others.
His habit of constantly rotating his side and making bold tactical changes, such as moving world class right back Philipp Lahm into midfield in the twilight of his career, helped Bayern obliterate the competition in Germany and break bagfuls of domestic records in the process.
In Europe, however, they twice stumbled in the Champions League’s semi-final stage, losing heavily to Real Madrid in 2014 before being edged out by Juventus the following year.
Media reports had long-claimed that Guardiola would not extend his deal by a further season with logic dictating that he had little to gain by staying at Bayern.
Should Guardiola win the Champions League this season, with Bayern safely through to the knockout stage, he would have achieved his goal while missing out on the title would see him enter a season of potentially prolonged criticism.
Bayern repeatedly said they wanted the former Barcelona coach, who won 14 titles in four years at the Spanish club, including two Champions Leagues, to stay on, eyeing further success both on and the pitch as well as commercially.
Guardiola, who will be replaced by Italian Carlo Ancelotti, is among the most sought-after coaches in the world, making Bayern, with more than half a billion euros (more than $543 million)in turnover, a more attractive brand.
Yet the Spaniard also had his run-ins in Munich with Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt, the former long-time team doctor, once accusing him of blaming the medical staff for a defeat.
Fans were also fiercely opposed to club icon Bastian Schweinsteiger being allowed to join Manchester United at the end of last season, and were angry that Guardiola did not oppose the deal.
Yet Guardiola’s overall impact at Bayern, even without the Champions League, has certainly been positive.
Bayern are now established top dogs in Germany after Borussia Dortmund had dominated for a few seasons, while the Spaniard has added some glamour and an international touch to the Bundesliga.
Several of the players signed while he has been manager including Thiago, Costa and youngster Jonathan Kimmich have the potential to become key components for the Bavarians in the coming years while the club’s standing as one of Europe’s heavyweights has only been reinforced.
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(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Toby Davis)