Pep Guardiola’s famed perfectionism was on immediate display at Bayern Munich as he finally arrived at the Allianz Arena today.
His sabbatical in New York had clearly not been spent just marvelling at the art in the Met, watching the Yankees and strolling through Central Park. He’d been doing endless homework.
Guardiola had been mastering the German language, amusingly revealing that his teacher was a Borussia Dortmund fan. “She almost did not allow me to come here,’’ said Guardiola, triggering laughter in Bayern’s power brokers Uli Hoeness and Karl Heinz Rummenigge sitting either side of him.
Guardiola totally charmed his audience at the Allianz, speaking in German, Spanish, Italian and English. He spoke of his delight at joining Bayern. “What I feel today – this is a gift. It’s a great joy and happiness not only for being here but also because Bayern Munich thought of me and allowed me to be here. I would like to thank Bayern for this chance.’’
Inundated with offers from all around Europe, Guardiola said he chose Bayern “above all for their players and their history,” adding that “there are very few clubs in the world who are that special. Bayern is one of those clubs with a special character. When Bayern call, it’s huge, an honour.’’
Having been exhausted after his glorious but intense time at Barcelona, where he won 14 trophies, Guardiola said he was refreshed by his year out. “I am ready. My time in Barcelona was marvellous but I needed a new challenge and Bayern Munich gave me that chance. I am certain that all the fans of Bayern will continue to live with pride and I hope it will be an era of pride for all.”
As well as a downpour of rain more associated with Wimbledon, Guardiola was greeted here with headlines in the Munich papers welcoming him in Spanish, wishing him “mucha suerte” (“good luck”) and a request in German for “noch mehr Titel” (“even more titles”). The pressure is on already.
But how do you improve on last season’s Treble? Assorted Bayern luminaries have suggested possibilities. Franck Ribery, tongue in cheek, pondered whether they should “invent a new trophy”.
Franz Beckenbauer placed focus on the Club World Cup in Morocco in December. Bayern could also add the German Super Cup and European Super Cup to the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup trophies amassed so far in 2013.
Bayern’s captain, Philipp Lahm, made arguably the most pertinent point, saying he wants to turn a “memorable year into an era”. As in the mid-Seventies. The presence of Hoeness, the current president, was a reminder of that golden era.
Guardiola understood the pressure. “In a great club as manager you always have great pressure. I have it here and I am conscious of it and I accept this huge challenge. I take the reins of a team that last year did extraordinary things.
"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. I am a bit nervous but we are talking about Bayern who won every title last year so it’s normal that the expectation will be very high. In my career as a manager at Barcelona we also won everything.
“I need more time to know the clubs perfectly. But since being in New York I spent every weekend watching Bundesliga games. Above all those of Bayern of course but also I was interested in the rivals. It’s a very competitive league. There are many good teams in the Bundesliga. As soon as possible I have to adapt. The last three of our months one of my colleagues came to watch all the games of Bayern and gave me information on every player.”
Could Bayern’s football be better? Yet some of the football produced by Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller was sublime, precision at pace.
“I have to adapt 100 per cent to my players,’’ said Guardiola. “One hundred per cent. Football belongs to the players not the manager. The fans come to the Arena to watch the players, not me.
"I have to adapt to the high qualities of our players. The players of Barcelona are different to those who play here at Bayern. So I have to adapt to the players. The system doesn’t matter.”
Jupp Heynckes has bequeathed a legacy of a wonderful side, also enhanced by Mario Gotze’s arrival. Guardiola indicated there will not be many following Gotze in. “Few people will come because a team like Bayern have already a big structure.
"I have to continue the high level of Jupp Heynckes. I have huge respect for his work and his exceptional career and history in the game. There are few things I would change. But very few.
"What I am interested in is continuity and to maintain this high level. That is the pressure and I have to accept it. I like to attack. I love to attack. That’s my idea of football."
And so it begins. Training starts on Wednesday with 25,000 fans invited to watch Guardiola work with the players at the Allianz.
Guardiola takes Bayern on a training camp in Trentino from July 4-12 which includes a friendly with his old club, Brescia.
He has brought in his own support network, trusted coaches and friends who have served him well at Barcelona like Domenec Torrent, Carles Planchart, Lorenzo Buenaventura and Manuel Estiarte.
They will continue to fine-tune the team with assorted other matches, including a benefit game against Hansa Rostock, the Telekom Cup, and on July 24 the Uli Hoeness Cup against his old Barcelona friends.
“It will be a special match,’’ said Guardiola. “But I am here. What I did at Barca is already gone.”