Manchester City made a bold move in announcing Pep Guardiola’s imminent arrival mid-way through the season.
The former Barcelona man was brought on board to move the club forward, and yet City are on their best ever Champions League run this year with ‘washed-up’ Manuel Pellegrini in charge – they still stand to reach the final, even if it is an outside chance.
Whilst Pep’s formula was trusted as a City’s missing ingredient for European success, what has been proven now – three times consecutively – is that Guardiola’s style is no longer guaranteed success at the sharp end of the continental competition.
Bayern Munich won the battle, but once again lost the war in their latest Champions League semi-final slump; a 2-1 home victory over Atletico Madrid was not enough to overturn their 1-0 defeat in Spain a week prior. Away goals have been Guardiola’s nemesis during his time in Germany.
“I gave my life for this team, I fought and did my best.
“We played as we wanted to play today but we came up one goal short. I’m sorry, especially for the players.”
Guardiola’s teams have fallen in the same manner in each of his three semi-final failures at Bayern Munich. Failing to score an away goal away at Real Madrid. No away goal against a questionable defence at the Camp Nou. Yet again, no way through a resilient Simeone line-up at Atleti’s Vicente Calderon.
What will hurt the most is the manner in which the away goals were conceded to their Spanish opposition, cheaply striking against the run of play in the blink of an eye in the Allianz Arena. For three years, the same event, over and over and over again.
Knockout football is volatile without a doubt – however, three almost-identical semi-final eliminations in a row look less like one-offs and more like a pattern of ineptitude.
— Transfer Central TNC (@TransferNewsCen) May 3, 2016
Winning the Bundesliga, even securing the double, it’s no longer enough for a team of Bayern’s calibre. Considering that when Jupp Heynckes left Bayern, he had secured an emphatic treble including the Champions League – Pep inherited a squad with a proven appetite for European success.
Even now, few would argue against Bayern boasting the strongest overall squad in all of Europe. Yet with Guardiola at the helm, Bayern have appeared fragile in the Champions League – struggling to surpass Juventus and even Benfica.
If Pep wasn’t set to depart for Manchester anyway, would his position at the Allianz be under threat?Laurent Blanc at Paris St-Germain is a prime example to suggest that it might be. Blanc is unsure of his job’s security after limping out of the Champions League to Manchester City.
That the Frenchman can deliver countless domestic trebles in France is of no great importance. The same rule applies for Bayern. Domestic success is a given now, what counts is the Champions League.
Guardiola has seen his Bayern side eliminated at the semi-final stage three seasons running and he’ll never get another chance to put it right. His move to pastures new in Manchester was expected to come off the back of Champions League success – sparking optimism amongst City supporters. Instead, City face the harrowing prospect of winning the Champions League and then bidding farewell to the manager who brought that fairytale success.
Imagine if Manchester City win the Champions League and Guardiola has to deal with the pressure of retaining the title… Pep will have a serious case of deja vu.
Bayern, and now Manchester City, thought they were hiring the man to give them a unique and effective style of play, bringing with it the continental esteem and success it has reaped in the past at Barcelona. Despite all the resources available to him, Bayern didn’t get that – why would City be any different?