Pep Guardiola will always be seen as a behemoth of coaching. He took a Barcelona squad that seemed to exist solely in the shadow of Real Madrid, pushed a style of play onto the pitch that now has its very own nickname, was at the helm when a guy by the name of Messi became the worldwide phenomenon he is, and took Barcelona from the second best team in La Liga to the best club team in the world (some even argue that they were the best club team in the history of football). However, even with this pedigree and cult-hero status for eternity in Barcelona, the situation that he walks into in Barcelona has every possibility of derailing his rise to being the most sought after manager in world football.
Bayern Munich is coming of the most successful season in the history of their club. An unprecedented treble and historic victories over several clubs, including a 7-0 aggregate thrashing of Guardiola’s old club Barcelona, and it is difficult to see where Guardiola could improve on the last campaign. Bayern will have the opportunity to bring home the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea early in the season (Pep vs Mourinho again? Fanastic) and their victory in the Champions League will also allow them entry into the Club World Cup, but both of these trophies are not held in the same regard as any of the three that Bayern brought home this last season.
It truly seems like the only way that Guardiola could have anyone think that he had improved the squad is if he brings home a trophy in every competition that they enter this season. Even then, if Bayern’s Bundesliga campaign is not decided until the final weeks (they claimed the league with a few weeks to spare in 2012/13), people may still see this past season as the superior run. We have seen how Guardiola can turn a great squad into world-beaters, but what happens when Guardiola is handed the keys to a fully functioning machine and told to improve on perfection?
Although Bayern’s squad has already been strengthened with transfer acquisitions and the rumor of others joining the reigning European Champions, the bar may be so high that even Pep’s brilliance will seem diminished. He certainly cannot hope to bring tiki-taka to Bayern and their style of play was so dominant that a change in formation or philosophy is not really needed. With those types of constraints, what can Pep really hope to accomplish? It seemed unlikely that the mastermind of the Barcelona dominance could have ever bitten off more than he could chew, but the world will be watching to see if he still has some magic left to give to Munich. No matter what happens, I really am hoping for a Barcelona/Bayern match-up in the Champions League this season.