Now follow that, Pep! Bayern brilliance a hard act to follow for Guardiola

The Catalan coach was appointed in January with a view to getting the best out of the Bavarians’ golden generation. But just four months on, they are already European champions

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

It had seemed the perfect match. A golden generation of players who had under-achieved at the very highest level in Europe, paired with the most successful and decorated coach of the last four years. Pep Guardiola’s move to Bayern Munich looked like the final piece in the jigsaw for this exciting team when it was announced in January, but just over four months on, they have conquered Europe before he has even got started. Bundesliga champions by 25 points, likely German cup winners and now Champions League heroes: Jupp Heynckes’ brilliant Bayern will be a hard act to follow.

Bayern lost two of the last three Champions League finals and time was running out for this great group of players to really fulfil their potential on the game’s most special stage. Last season’s loss to Chelsea at the Allianz Arena in the final raised real doubts over the mental strength of this team and back-to-back Bundesliga titles surrendered to Borussia Dortmund only served to rub salt in the wounds. Pep, they said, would see to all that.

But Bayern have done it without him. The Bavarians brilliant form in 2012-13 has seen them duly dispatch domestic rivals with scandalous scorelines: 9-2, 6-1 several times, 5-0 away from home, and so on. And in the Champions League, the sensational 7-0 aggregate win over Barcelona (the team that Pep built) led to claims the Catalans’ era was over, giving way to a Deutsch dynasty. Pep, who was supposed to mastermind said switch in power, watched on from his cosy sabbatical in New York. Now, however, he finds himself in a less comfortable position, stuck between a rock and a hard place: in terms of results, it really is impossible to better Bayern’s breathtaking performance in the current campaign; in purely footballing terms, it will be almost impossible too.

Yes, Bayern ceded the ball to BVB in the early stages and looked bellow their brilliant best for the first 25 minutes, but the Bavarians ended the game with 61 per cent of the possession – something similar to the stats in every single one of Guardiola’s 247 games as Barcelona boss. And they were up against the team which knows them better than any other. This was a German Clasico.

The Catalan coach is likely to opt for a philosophy more in tune with Barca’s pretty passing, yet Bayern are already a top technical team who can spray the ball around the pitch and press like the best, albeit without the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi. And collectively, there is currently no better team around.

So Guardiola has chosen wisely. But have Bayern? Perhaps Pep’s arrival gave the players a lift in January and had them on their toes as they looked to impress their new boss. This includes the Wembley hero Arjen Robben, who could be the first out of the door when Guardiola arrives. If, however, Bayern go on to win the DFB Pokal by beating Stuttgart on June 1 (as they will be expected to do), Guardiola will really have a tough task in attempting to better this team.

Mario Gotze will join from Dortmund this summer, while a big transfer kitty awaits the new man. And with his remarkable reputation, the Catalan coach will be expected to make Bayern better. At Barca, he inherited a losing team with all the ingredients to be a winner; at Bayern he takes over the best team around. Now he has to build an era-defining dynasty – nothing else will suffice. It’s a colossal challenge.
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