Graham Hunter reveals the ripple effects caused by Pep Guardiola’s move to Bayern Munich
I don’t know of anyone who can prove Sir Isaac Newton was a Bayern Munich fan but I’m nearly sure the 18th century physicist had something like Pep Guardiola’s sudden decision to sign for the Bavarians in mind when he came up with this third law of motion; that for each and every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction.
Joy, bratwurst sandwiches, steins of strong lager and plans to dominate the Champions League forever in most of Bavaria.
Bitter tears, recriminations, thousand-yard stares and loud ‘why oh, oh, whys’ in Russian and Arabic haunting the Premier League.
That sort of thing.
So if Pep Guardiola (41) is the pebble which breaks the water’s surface and sends ripples spreading out in all directions — who all gets their feet wet?
#1. What happens now at Chelesa with Rafa Benitez and will Abramovich leave?
You have to wonder whether comrade Abramovich bent a few solid gold teaspoons in impotent rage yesterday, pushed away the side plate of beluga caviar and kicked the cat?
The Russian’s desire to import Barça-style football to Stamford Bridge is well established and having failed to persuade Guardiola last May the door was left firmly open for the Catalan to step in, and earn wealth beyond any normal man’s dreams, from this summer onwards.
Rafa Benitez’s interim appointment until the end of this season spoke volumes about the Chelsea owner’s confidence that by buying diminutive, technically gifted players like Oscar, Hazard, Mata and, I hear, Isco in the next transfer market he could sway Guardiola.
Txiki Begiristain, now in charge of Manchester City’s football direction but once Guardiola’s boss at Barça also said “no” to Abramovich. That’s not a good indication of how much these smart, successful football philosophers trust Chelsea’s strategy and consistency under Abramovich’s rule.
Nor did Benitez pick a particularly good night for his team to draw 2-2 with relegation strugglers Southampton. Booed off the pitch after a performance which means the European Champions have now won just one of their seven home Premier League matches under the Spaniard can only have served to implant another thorn in Abramovich’s side.
If either the Russian wants shot of Benitez by the end of the season or if the former Real Madrid youth team coach gets the call to return to the Bernabéu then what is the Chelsea owner left with?
Carlo Ancelotti’s title win wasn’t sufficient to appease him, Roberto Di Matteo’s remarkable Champions League odyssey had a five month feel-good factor and now Guardiola has chosen a walk near the Black Forest ahead of walking down the King’s Road. (With apologies to all fans of Horst Jankowski and the mod band Squire)
Where does Abramovich turn? Is it feasible that with the fans booing the club for its treatment of Frank Lampard, for the sacking of Di Matteo, for the run of sterile home performances and now with the rejection of Guardiola stinging worse than a paper-cut the Russian billionaire might, just, start to feel his comittment to the club ebbing away?
#2. Who will be the first Barcelona player to move to Bayern?
Obviously, there were always going to be repercussions at Guardiola’s Alma Mater.
The first came for poor old Tito Vilanova on Wednesday night, after Barça’s 2-2 draw against 10-man Málaga, when his press conference was pretty much hijacked by Spanish, Catalan, Italian and German journalists. All wanted to ask him about his friend and former boss signing for the Bavarians more than about the surprise home draw in the Copa del Rey quarter final.
There wasn’t any doubting Vilanova’s sincerity when, in order, he stated that a) he hadn’t known anything about it despite having met Guardiola in New York last week b) he was utterly delighted that a force for good in football was returning to the top level of the European game and c) that Bayern appeared a smart choice for Pep given that it was one of the all-time great football clubs.
But it didn’t take long for him to look a little piqued that the tantalising cup quarter final was being relegated to second place … or that Guardiola’s every move at Bayern looms as being a subject for every fourth or fifth question of each damn press conference next season.
More seriously, of course, there is the question about whether any key men at the Camp Nou — technical staff or stellar playing talents — might migrate and fly north in the summer?
Victor Valdés is in the throes of contract re-negotiations as is Sergio Busquets. The Barça Academy is full of glowing young tyro-talents — prime for plucking by Pep.
Normally Barça treat all that as an occupational hazard of forming exceptional young players and haggle for big fees which are then pumped back into youth development.
But it was only 48 hours ago that FCB President Sandro Rosell alleged Manchester City had been attempting to wave petrodollars in the direction of some Barça talent. Whether his attempt to boom out a ‘hands-off’ message was convincing remains to be seen.
If I were either the agent of Valdés, Busquets or anyone in line for an imminent contract renewal I’d be dancing a feverish jig of joy right now to the tune of ‘We’re in the money, we’re in the money…”
#3. Will Jose move to Germany just to get piss Pep off?
Now the Special One has always had a devilish sense of humour and, equally, he’s always boasted about being the only man capable of picking off major trophies in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. So perhaps next season he’ll head-hunt Bochum or SpVgg Greuther Fürth, demand the manager’s job and storm into the Bundesliga title fight just to get under Pep’s skin again. Don’t pretend you weren’t already thinking about him doing something like that.
As for the ripples in the pond reaching President Pérez’s toes, it might not be a bad thing. Bayern are already Madrid’s most redoutable European foe.
And not just because of Los Blancos’ elimination at the hands of FCB in the Champions League semi final last April. Of Madrid’s twenty Champions’ Cup meetings with Bayern they’ve only won seven and the goals scored are 33-26 in the Bavarian’s favour.
So for them to add the arch anti-Madridista in Guardiola, with the guarantee that Bayern’s attention to detail and ruthlessness when it comes to winning trophies will increase, it must seem a trifle ominous to the President of the Spanish champions.
Moreover Bayern, like Barça, have a guiding football and business philosophy which is starkly different to Madrid’s and the Bundesliga leaders also put enormous faith in their own youth development policies. Time for Florentino to look and learn?
#4. The situation for the Bayern squad, Javi Martinez and Spain
It’s simple to explain why Bayern is a natural fit for Guardiola. Ambitious, well-run, attentive to detail, a club with a Bavarian identity rather than German just as Barça feels itself firstly as a Catalan institution rather than a Spanish outfit. It’s also pretty clear what Guardiola brings to the party.
Basically this is all, ‘winning machine gets Formula One petrol in its engine — GO! GO! GO!’ as Murray Walker used to screech.
But there will be some stalled engines. Guardiola is maniacal about detail, quite right too. His demands are high and they are incessant. Without question he will encounter one or two at Bayern who either think, or worse still say: “Es tut mir leid, aber das ist nicht, wie wir die Dinge hier tun.”
Which, roughly, means: “That’s all very well pal but that’s not the way we do things around here you know.”
A deadline missed, a little bit of larking around during training, a stretching exercise only 95% completed, a late night ahead of a match… too many appearances in sponsors’ adverts.
If anyone at Bayern Munich’s Säbener Straße training centre doubts what kind of tightening of the leash is coming they need only phone Samuel Eto’o, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Yaya Touré.
As for Javi Martínez, I suspect good times lie ahead. His €40m price tag has occasionally chafed this season. Hands up anyone who is totally shocked?
Okay, please leave the classroom.
But he now fulfills the right side of the two-man midfield, with Bastian Schweinsteiger, in retiring manager Jupp Heynckes’ regular 4-2-3-1 formation.
However, there could be no better ex-midfielder to become maestro to the talented, athletic Basque who can look closely at Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets now and believe: “I’m capable of making them fight much harder for their places in the world champions’ starting XI.”
I’m certain their shared language, ability, outlook and professionalism will unite Guardiola and Martínez, to the great benefit of the latter.
Then, dear reader, there is you and I…
Neutral or partisan, German, Spanish, Catalan, Bavarian, Scottish, English, Irish or Welsh we should all be thrilled to the core that the beautiful game has one of his most attractive participants back again.
Viel Glück Herr Guardiola.
Graham Hunter is a Barcelona-based, British soccer writer whose passionate insight on La Liga can regularly be seen and heard on TV and radio. He also writes for the Paddy Power Blog on Spanish football. Follow Graham on twitter here.