Man on a Wire

By: Alfonso Duro

It is impossible to meet everyone’s expectations when you arrive to a team that has won everything and has some of the best players in the world. Add to that the fact that you are considered the best coach on the planet.

As such, Pep Guardiola’s arrival in Munich two summers ago was seen as the coming of the Messiah: he was supposed to grab all the greatness the team managed by Jupp Heynckes—which won the German/European treble in 2013—had shown, add a few talented young players and make Bayern Munich play like a perfectly tuned orchestra.

As much as Pep tried to deny it, the implied objective of his signing for the Bavarian powerhouse was none other than to try and turn a team that had historically achieved victory thanks to impressive physicality and constant attack, into a harmonized structure that resembled the soft-touching yet poisonously stinging Barcelona squad he conducted for five years.

This granted him a slew of praise from day one in Germany, but also tons of prejudice from the club legends. And after falling to Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League last year, the 3-0 thrashing he endured at Camp Nou last week has pushed him to the edge of the cliff.

KILLED BY THE BEAST HE CREATED. Hours before the kickoff against Bayern Munich last week, Messi shocked the world. How? Not only did he speak in a press conference for the first time in two years, but he also admitted he had had little to no contact with his former mentor since he left his post at Barcelona. During his own presser, Guardiola conceded that stopping his former pupil was an almost-impossible task. And he was right: what Messi did in the match that ensued will be hard to forget, and will likely haunt Guardiola for years to come—even more so, if it ends up costing him his head coaching job in Munich.

Guardiola told Marti Perarnau in his book Herr Pep, that the 0-4 defeat against Real Madrid last year was “the biggest fuck-up of my career.” We are all eager to see how he describes Bayern’s disastrous night at Camp Nou.

SWIMMING UPSTREAM FROM HERE. Guardiola is at a critical point in his Bayern Munich tenure. The critics’ voices he has been dealing with since he signed his contract have grown louder and louder. Even winning the Bundesliga for a second year in a row has not been enough to silence them, and with the very tough mission of overturning a 3-0 at the Allianz Arena, many believe Pep could be coaching one of his final matches in Germany.

Rumors indicate he could take up the job offer from his friend and former teammate Txiki Begiristain to coach Manchester City, where Manuel Pellegrini’s time seems to have run its course. Still, Guardiola—as pragmatic as ever—assured the press he will remain in Munich next season, and shifted the attention to the game at hand: “We’ll have to be patient and defend well,” the Catalan said. “Then we’ll see how we can go about scoring the goals we need.”

Pep was basically handed the keys to the city upon his arrival in Munich. He has spent astonishing amounts of euros bringing the players up to his liking in an effort to transform his squad from the valiant warrior tribe he was handed, to the effectively coordinated marching band he aspired to create. And yet, he has not managed to outdo the impressive merits of Jupp Heynckes.

Should Guardiola’s claims about staying in Munich be true, both he and his coaching staff know things won’t get any easier. Actually, quite the contrary.

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.