Sport Soccer

Thursday 19 October 2017

Guardiola arrives amid expectations of golden era

'I except this huge challenge. You always have to play well and you are obliged to win'

Josep Guardiola visits the Allianz Arena on his first day as Bayern Munich head coach
Josep Guardiola visits the Allianz Arena on his first day as Bayern Munich head coach
Guardiola visits the home team dressing-room on his first day as Bayern Munich head coach

Henry Winter in Munich

PEP GUARDIOLA stepped into the cavernous Allianz Arena and was immediately reminded of the club's gargantuan expectations.

On arrival, Bayern Munich's new coach was shown a short film of the team on their merry way to the treble under Jupp Heynckes last season.

Guardiola's own European triumphs at Barcelona were also celebrated during the screening.

The setting was basically Wembley, twin towers and single arch. Guardiola was seen playing there against Sampdoria in 1992, then joining in the 2011 dance around the European Cup which had been placed on the centre spot after victory over Manchester United.

Interspersed was footage of Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm conquering Borussia Dortmund last month.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness and legendary chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge,were pictured hugging in the Royal Box. The film ended with the words: "Viel gluck, Herr Guardiola.'' Good luck.

The message from the club was clear: this was a marriage of two great European names – Bayern and Guardiola. He will be given time and money but the demands are immense.

"I'm convinced that we will have success immediately,'' reflected Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer, who watched the broadcast with Guardiola, Hoeness and Rummenigge.

"The Bundesliga is the most honoured title,'' said Rummenigge. "The Champions League is the most beautiful."

Guardiola will be expected to be in Lisbon on May 24 next year, leading Bayern out for the climax of the Champions League. "Noch mehr Titel" ran the request from one Munich paper. More trophies.

Welcome to the pressure dome, Guardiola. Deliver trophies, build an era or risk the next video being dubbed Auf Wiedersehen, Pep.

Famed for his perfectionism, Guardiola is no stranger to such intense situations. The Nou Camp was hardly without its stresses and strains, eventually draining Guardiola after 14 trophies in four years.

Then he headed off for a breather in Manhattan. Refreshed by his sabbatical, he was ready for the task of coaching Bayern. "My time in Barcelona was marvellous but I needed a new challenge,'' said Guardiola, speaking in excellent German.

But how do you improve on last season's Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup feat? Assorted Bayern luminaries have suggested possibilities.

OVERDIVE

Franz Beckenbauer placed focus on the Club World Cup in Morocco in December. Bayern also contest the German Super Cup against Dortmund on July 27 and the European Super Cup against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in Prague on August 30 when the television manager-cams will be on overdrive.

Franck Ribery, tongue in cheek, pondered whether they should "invent a new trophy".

Philipp Lahm made arguably the most pertinent point, saying he wanted to turn a "memorable year into an era" as in the mid-70s when Hoeness was in his playing pomp.

Guardiola (right) observed that it would be "arrogant" to talk of an era, knowing it would be deemed disrespectful to European rivals, but he understood his duties here.

"When you arrive as a manager of Bayern you know what is expected of you: you always have to play well and you are obliged to win,'' he said.

"I am a bit nervous. Give me time. Step by step. In a great club, as manager you always have great pressure. I have it here – I'm conscious of it and I accept this huge challenge.

"I take the reins of a team that last year did extraordinary things. I have to continue the high level of Jupp Heynckes. I have huge respect for his work. There are a few things I would change. But very few."

Under Guardiola, Barcelona exhausted opponents with their constant passing triangles, the ball worked elegantly forward.

Bayern under Heynckes combined precision with pace, the ball moved quickly forward.

So will Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez retain the ball longer in the centre? Will there be fewer rapid dribbles from the likes of Robben and Ribery, assuming they stay?

Few clues are anticipated tomorrow when 25,000 fans will be allowed into the Allianz to see a public training session.

More questions will be answered when Guardiola gathers his new players for a training camp in Trentino from July 4-12. "I love to attack,'' he said simply. "That's my idea of football.''

It is the speed of the attack that will intrigue. "Football belongs to the players, not the manager,'' he continued. "The fans come to the Arena to watch the players, not me.

"The players of Barcelona are different to those who play here at Bayern so I have to adapt to the players – 100pc. The system doesn't matter."

But it does, particularly for someone as meticulous as Guardiola. He has brought in his own support network, trusted coaches and friends who served him well at Barcelona like Domenec Torrent, Carles Planchart, Lorenzo Buenaventura and Manuel Estiarte.

In New York Guardiola took German lessons, amusingly revealing that his teacher was a Dortmund fan.

"She almost didn't allow me to come here!'' smiled Guardiola, triggering laughter in Hoeness and Rummenigge.

Weekends gave him an opportunity to tune in to the Bundesliga. "The last three or four months one of my colleagues came to watch all the games of Bayern and gave me information on every player," he added.

It had been the quality of the players, as well as Bayern's history, that made him turn down all other offers.

"When Bayern call, it's huge, an honour. There are very few clubs in the world who are that special.''

Barcelona are among that elite group and Guardiola acknowledged it would be a "special match" when the sides meet in the sold-out Hoeness Cup on July 24.

Not only are Bayern's fans expectant, but the whole of German football is eager to see what Guardiola can bring to the Bundesliga.

"It's a great story for Bayern, and also for German football," said Rummenigge. "Pep's work here will enrich the Bundesliga."

The 42-year-old has already left an impression on Hoeness, a self-proclaimed technophobe.

"When I got to his apartment overlooking Central Park in New York and met his wonderful family, I knew after just five minutes that it felt right," said the Bayern president.

"We spoke for three or four hours about football and then he got his computer out. Now I don't normally like that, but he is permitted to do it. Not only did I then feel it, but I knew that he was the right man."

Meanwhile, Real Madrid are close to confirming Carlo Ancelotti as their new coach.

WANT-AWAY

Former France coach Laurent Blanc is expected to be named as PSG coach later this week and that will open the exit doors for want-away Ancelotti.

The 54-year-old Italian has been the favourite to step in at the Bernabeu since Jose Mourinho's departure.

Rafael Benitez believes that the former Chelsea and AC Milan boss, who he came face to face with in the Champions League finals of 2005 and 2007, will be the perfect replacement for the Portuguese.

He said: "I think it's the correct choice because he will a conciliator in the dressing room and inside the club. I think the club will appreciate that change." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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