Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Sports--THREE SEMI-FINAL ELIMINATIONS IN THREE YEARS - PEP'S FAILED BAYERN WHERE IT MATTERS MOST

THREE SEMI-FINAL ELIMINATIONS
IN THREE YEARS - PEP'S FAILED
BAYERN WHERE IT MATTERS
MOST

By Peter Staunton

The Catalan coach may be hyper-successful
on the domestic front but his legacy in
continental competition does not measure up
since arriving in Bavar
Manchester City are bringing in Pep Guardiola
to move the club forward but they've gone
just as far in the Champions League this year
with plain old Manuel Pellegrini in charge and
might yet go further. What has been proven
now three times in a row is that Guardiola's
football is no longer winning football at the
sharp end of continental competition.
That honour goes to Diego Simeone and his
fearless Atletico Madrid. His is the team who
beat treble-winning Barcelona and who have
now accounted for Bayern. And how? By
keeping it tight and hustling for a goal on the
break. There's your philosophy.
Guardiola's teams have been defeated in the
same way in each of his three consecutive
semi-final failures at Bayern Munich.



No
away goal at Santiago Bernabeu. No away
goal at Camp Nou. No away goal at Vicente
Calderon. All the return legs featured away
goals given away cheaply to the Spanish
sides, striking like daggers through the heart
at the Allianz Arena. Every year, over and
over and over again. Knockout football is
capricious, no mistaking that. However, three
similar semi-final eliminations put together in
a row look less like one-offs and more like a
pattern.
Sure, there were key moments against
Atletico. The Thomas Muller penalty could
have made it 2-0 and who knows what might
have happened from there. In any case, Diego
Simeone's side would still have needed only
the one goal they eventually got. There was
a late flurry but it was never going to be
enough. Bayern were essentially asking Atleti
to do what they do best; hang in there for full
time.
Credit where it's due. Guardiola is about to
lead Bayern Munich to a third straight
Bundesliga title under his watch. It is a
startling achievement to win three titles on
the bounce in a new country. That success
covers the period from the day he settled in
to the day he will leave. Guardiola knows only
success in Germany.
The fact of the matter though is that's what
it feels like for plenty of coaches down
throughout Bayern's history. They've won
roughly one out of every two Bundesliga
titles since the inception of the competition
in 1963. They have never endured a stretch
of more than five seasons without winning
the German title. This will be their fourth title
in a row and their 25th league crown overall.

This is normality. The world is on its axis
when Bayern Munich are champions of
Germany.
Economically now as well as on the field,
nobody can match them. CEO Karl-Heinz
Rummenigge has presided over a phase of
Bayern's history since his appointment in
2002 that could well be described as total
takeover. It's got to the stage that
Rummenigge is not looking to Germany for
challenges to but to Europe and the world.
He plainly sees his team as having outgrown
the Bundesliga. The former striker is zealous
in his vision for a Super League in which to
field his super club alongside the likes of
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris St-Germain.
Well maybe they are not quite ready for that
step. Let's deal with Atletico first.
Bayern's closest domestic rivals, Borussia
Dortmund, cannot seem to stop their best
players leaving for Bavaria. As evidenced by
the acquisitions of Mario Gotze, Robert
Lewandowski and, imminently, Mats
Hummels, the mechanisms in place at
Bayern are designed not only for them to
succeed but for the rest of the Bundesliga to
fail.
It is like when Mark Zuckerberg perceives
Instagram or WhatsApp to be a threat to his
Facebook kingdom. The answer? Buy them.
The only problem for Bayern is keeping all
their star players happy at once.
Hence, to win the league, or even the double,
is no longer enough. When clubs move in
these rarefied circles, they are judged on a
totally different basis. Look at Laurent Blanc
at Paris St-Germain. He is unsure of his job
after going out of the Champions League to
Manchester City.

That he is going for
consecutive domestic trebles in France is of
no great importance. The Qataris have not
poured billions of euros in to win the Coupe
de la Ligue.
Same goes for Bayern. Domestic success is
a given now. Leicester City win the Premier
League? Big deal. Bayern win the
Bundesliga? No big deal.
What counts is the Champions League. But
Guardiola and Bayern have been eliminated
at the semi-final stage three seasons running
and he'll never get another chance to put it
right. Three domestic titles weighed up
against three continental semi-final
eliminations - which is a better assessment
of Guardiola's tenure at a club like Bayern?
It's been three years and six legs of
Champions League semi-final failure. This is
not a judgement based on one match or
moment.
While plenty can and should be said about
the evolution of the current Bayern players
under Guardiola, what legacy will he leave
behind? Carlo Ancelotti will be along next
season and he won't impose Guardiola's style
on the team. In fact he won't bring a pre-
defined template at all. He'll look at the
players, take them as he sees them and pick
a team accordingly.
Bayern thought they were hiring the man to
give them a unique, definable way of playing
for a generation or more and the continental
esteem to go along with it. They didn't get
that. It cannot be said that Pep remade
Bayern. He wasn't there long enough. Pep
needed the Champions League.