How much can Guardiola change Bayern’s style of play?
In sport, the word transition usually crops up while describing either a team of young but unproven talents or a successful team that has to rebuild after the loss of an ageing core group. Bayern Munich are neither. They have just been crowned champions of Europe. Only one player from their starting eleven in the Champions League final was in his thirties. And that man, Franck Ribery, had turned 30 only in April.
And yet, at the end of this season, Bayern will be a team in transition. Back in January, they had already announced that Pep Guardiola would replace Jupp Heynckes, 68 and presumed to be on the verge of retirement, as their coach.
Heynckes, reportedly, wasn’t too pleased with the timing of the announcement. Guardiola, after all, was the most sought-after coach in world football, having won three league titles and two Champions Leagues in four seasons with Barcelona. Speculation over his next destination had begun as soon as he’d announced that he was taking a one-year sabbatical from coaching. Bayern and Heynckes were in the middle of an important season; everyone was already looking ahead to the next one.
Since that announcement, Heynckes has forced the world to return to the present. Bayern have won the Bundesliga with a whopping 25-point cushion, and they’ve won the Champions League. On the way, they beat Barcelona a Barcelona that was still, in many ways, Guardiola’s team 7-0 across two legs.
On Saturday, Bayern play Stuttgart in the final of the DFB Cup. Were they to win, they would become only the seventh team in history, and the first German club, to achieve the “treble” of European Cup (or, in its current avatar, the Champions League), domestic league and domestic knock-out cup titles in the same season.