LONDON - Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness have never hidden their distaste for the Premier League’s nouveaux riches so there must have been a real buzz in the air when they called an extraordinary board meeting on Wednesday to announce the appointment of Pep Guardiola.
Bayern’s Chief Executive and President have been outspoken critics of oil-rich English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City.
The former Bayern players described last year’s Champions League final defeat to Chelsea as the worst night of their career; quite something, especially from Rummenigge, a man who lost two World Cup finals.
So the old friends no doubt shared a private joke about the British media hype that suggested former Barcelona coach Guardiola, on a year’s sabbatical in New York, had a tough but straightforward choice about his next job. Should he choose Chelsea or Manchester City? Why would he opt for any other country?
Little known to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and City supremo Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Guardiola agreed to join the Bavarian giants before Christmas.
The most sought-after coach in world football, the man who won 14 (and perhaps more incredibly only failed to win five titles) at Barcelona chose Bayern and the Bundesliga ahead of England.
Guardiola will replace coach Jupp Heynckes, who will retire in the summer. A few extra million euros were turned down in favour of a football philosophy more akin to that of the Spaniard’s.
“If it were purely down to money, then Bayern would have had no chance,” Bayern Chief Executive Rummenigge said. ‘’He was pleased with the way we have established a financial independence.”
Guardiola’s agent concurred.
‘’He has chosen Bayern Munich because the club was the best project among all the interested clubs,’’ Josep Maria Orobitg said. ‘’Bayern did not offer the most money. Guardiola chose this club because of its organization, its opportunities and its players.’’
Football agents are not known for their credibility, but something about Orobitg’s words ring true.
Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo believes the appointment is a huge coup for Bayern and the Bundesliga. ‘’It’s the best decision Pep could have taken. He had three choices: Bayern, Chelsea and Manchester City. He chose the club with the most history, the most stability. And the most solid and talented team.’’
Indeed, Bayern suddenly appear to have won kudos around Europe. Rare indeed is the day that l’Equipe adorns its front page with a massive headline in German, but after considering Bayern’s financial stability and the forthcoming introduction of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play, the French sports daily concluded its Guardiola editorial with one word. ‘’Natürlich.’’
Such plaudits will come as a delight to Hoeness, who as a boy learnt to balance the books at his parent’s grocery in Ulm and as a man went on to build an enormously successful sausage empire.
Despite its lavish image as FC Hollywood, Bayern have made a profit for each of the last 20 seasons, a record that Hoeness is immensely proud of.
Now, Bayern players are wondering what Guardiola will mean for them. The initial reaction is one of elation.
‘’The team was excited when we heard he was coming,’’ said team captain Phillip Lahm. ‘’Only a few names could replace Heynckes who is a great coach and to hear that his successor is Pep Guardiola, then I should say that this is a top appointment. He is the coach of recent years. He has declined offers in England and that shows how much he wants to come to Bayern.’’
Still, with Bayern nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and comfortably through to the next round of the Champions League and German Cup, it’s hard to see how anyone could improve on the work of outgoing coach Heynckes.
Bayern have had bad experiences with foreigners (they have had eight non-German coaches since the creation of the Bundesliga in 1963 and none won the European Cup) and revolutionaries (Jürgen Klinsmann lasted less than a season).