Bundesliga: Is Bayern Munich's Success a Problem for Pep Guardiola?

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2013

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 07: Pep Guardiola, former head coach of Barcelona attends the Press Conference with nominees for World Player of the Year and World Coach of the Year for Men's Football on January 7, 2013 at Congress House in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

When Bayern Munich went into the Christmas break with a nine-point lead over defending champions Borussia Dortmund and only a single defeat to their name, a league title seemed inevitable.

Now the Bavarians have earned the famous Viking shield known as die Salatschüssel ("the salad bowl") with six league games remaining, a German record. What's more, they've earned their record 23rd title having claimed maximum points in 2013, also a Bundesliga record. And in his third spell at the club, 67-year-old Jupp Heynckes has become the oldest coach to win the title.

Frankly, a bull in a vinyl record shop would break fewer records.

After the heartache of falling at the final hurdle in the European Cup and DFB Pokal last season—and losing the title to BVB—Bayern have been resplendent and utterly unstoppable this season.

In the first-leg Champions League matches with Arsenal and Juventus, we have seen how the German side can pull off dominant performances, even while coasting in second gear for long periods. In their epic victory over Dortmund in the German Cup quarterfinals, we have seen how they are truly exorcising the demons of the past.

President Uli Hoeness, who has spent the vast majority of his career with Die Roten, seemed astonished by his organisation's own brilliance. "I can barely articulate how great this title is for me. I've rarely seen a Bayern team this dominant," he said after the title-clinching win at Eintracht Frankfurt.

But celebrations have been relatively muted, as the club believe their job is only one-third complete. With a Champions League semifinal place all but secured and only Wolfsburg keeping them from the DFB Pokal Final, Heynckes feels the treble is a distinct possibility in his final season in charge.

Yet the success of the Bundesliga's oldest victorious coach may be troubling for the Champions League's youngest winning manager.

Pep Guardiola is set to take the reins at Bayern Munich next season. If they win the treble, where on Earth is the Spaniard supposed to take things from there?

When Guardiola took charge of Barcelona, they had just finished third under Frank Rijkaard and were two seasons without a league win, despite a host of talented players like Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel Eto'o. They hadn't won a Copa del Rey in 10 years.

With Barca, Pep had a ship to steer back in the right direction, and the perfect environment for players and fans to get on board with his management style.

With Bayern Munich currently at the top of the mountain, Guardiola must struggle to stay at the peak, or start heading in the only direction possible: down.

When his decision to choose Bayern was announced in January, the Catalan was celebrated for his decision. Apparently he had shunned inflated salaries and "glamor" of certain suitors in the Premier League to join a club with solid financial grounding, in what the connoisseurs may consider Europe's best league.

Pep was particularly commended for declining the advances of Chelsea, and for not making himself subject to the fickle managerial whims of owner Roman Abramovich. The Chelsea job, after all, is perceived as a poisoned chalice.

Yet in a way, the chalice may not taste any better in Germany. At Stamford Bridge, Guardiola could have taken charge of a club who have endured a disappointing season, predominantly under the guidance of a heavily maligned "interim" manager. With Abramovich's checkbook, he could have built a new project and turned things around at the club.

There are rumors of Pep being handed a nine-figure "war chest" at Bayern, but where is he really going to spend that kind of money? Bayern don't need that much rebuilding, and any major changes he makes will risk upsetting the winning formula.

Of course, it is perfectly possible that Guardiola takes Bayern Munich to new heights. Spanish paper Marca are among those who feel he will make the German side even better. A sustained period of success like he achieved with Barcelona is not out of the question.

Yet as the Spaniard continues to enjoy his sabbatical to a backdrop of Bayern Munich dominance, he must surely be concerned by the prospect of maintaining the legacy he is about to be handed.


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