At some point a few years ago, we thought that Jesus Christ himself rose from the dead and everyone in Germany sang hallelujah. Jupp Heynckes had just ended his career at the side-line of the Allianz Arena and the most thrilling, exciting and maybe “best” coach (we will come to this later) in the world was knocking on the red-white Bavarian door.
It was the summer of 2013 and the first official match of the Champions League winner FC Bayern München was against Borussia Dortmund in the Supercup (remember: the 2013 all-German UCL Final at Wembley). Pep Guardiola was standing next to Jürgen Klopp and gave one of his first interviews in German.
No one really talked about the heavy defeat that Bayern suffered, losing 4:2 against Borussia Dortmund. Everyone was full of admiration and praise for the Catalan coach, who spoke better German than most Bavarians.
That day, there was the sense that journalists were talking to an alien or some other supernatural creature from elsewhere, not a Catalonia.
No doubt, Pep Guardiola really learned the German language fast and carefully. And he an immense reputation with him to Munich. Still, it seemed that journalists and the Bayern representatives had the feeling that the “Star of the South” was the best club in the world. And to be honest, there was no discussion about that statement. The victory over Borussia Dortmund (Champions League and Bundesliga), the transfer of that time biggest talent in Germany – Mario Götze – and the new star coach Pep Guardiola were harbingers of great domination for the next years.
A Three Year Era
In the summer, Pep Guardiola will leave FC Bayern München after a so-called project time of three years. Following the 2014 World Cup and the 2013 all-German Champions League Final between Bayern and Dortmund, Guardiola’s work at Bayern was the next most important enrichment for German Football. The Bundesliga gained more attention than before. And even relatively “unimportant” clubs (compared to Bayern) like Dortmund, Schalke, Leverkusen or Mönchengladbach appeared or reappeared on the world football stage.
Throughout the last two years, pundits and Bayern representatives did not tire of repeatedly stating that Guardiola was revolutionizing football itself. The results affirm this pronouncement: Guardiola won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and will almost certainly win a third. He won the DFB-Pokal.
Interestingly, in the winter break, when Guardiola announced that he will be leaving Bayern after three years, the press’ attitude toward him seemed to change immediately. It seemed almost like Pep Guardiola, the Messiah, went through an incarnation. “He really is just human” was the feeling after he announced his good bye. Something else changed. For the first time, Guardiola felt what it is like to be in the Bundesliga shark tank.
Suddenly, a List of Problems
Problems seem to be haunting Pep right now. Last year, no one would have dared to speak out about such things. First, Jerome Boateng, Bayern’s star defender and valuable Nationalmannschaft member, was in the opening Rückrunde match at Hamburg. The culprit? Pep’s training methods: too much speed, little endurance training, or injury prevention, and the little coordination between other departments, especially with the medical department and team of trainers.
Did Pep Guardiola ever really arrive in München? In other words, did he never really inhale the famed Mia san Mia collective spirit?
On Wednesday the German SportBild speculated about the return of one Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt.
This rumor is notable, given the heavy conflicts between the coach and the doc, which ultimately ended the long era of Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt at Bayern.
Now, it seems this departure was just a break. Many Bayern players, for example, Ribery and Robben, only have the best words when it comes to Müller-Wohlfahrt. But Guardiola’s handling with the medical department was and is not the only problem.
Other words, Other Language
Something distorts the appearance of the formerly dubbed Catalonian “Messiah.” The so-called experts, among them Ex-Bayern-Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and various journalists in Germany, suddenly are talking about the manner in which Guardiola represents FC Bayern München. One criticism is that Guardiola would prefer isolation over representation. Of the coach’s demeanor, “That is the wrong manner,” says Ottmar Hitzfeld, who won the Chamions League with Dortmund (1997) and Bayern (2001).
On the one hand, howver, Pep cannot be criticized for working hard for the success of the club. A coach should focus on the everyday-work on the pitch, no doubt. On the other hand, he is also an important representative of the club. Pep Guardiola is a man who really wants to express himself eloquently and with intelligence. He always appears very polite and it seems that his understanding for the German language improved over the last years. Yet at certain points, Guardiola understood the questions of journalists correctly, but he struggled to answer them in a suitable way, due to lacking specialized vocabulary. He just could not use the same words he would have used in Catalan, Castellano, or English, which is why Pep Guardiola often appeared arrogant or distant with journalists. And this attitude is what journalists and experts are holding against the coach right now.
Nevertheless, it seemed that the work with the press and representative actions were always a waste of time for him. But we also should not forget the almost ridiculous question that was repeated on and on over the last six month: will he stay or will he leave?
No wonder Pep didn’t love the German press. At least they have an answer now.
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