Pep Guardiola’s time at Bayern Munich could have been termed a huge success but the Champions League trophy missing during his reign with the German giants puts a big dent on him; with some already labeling him a failure in the long run.
The argument by many is that Guardiola wasn’t brought in to help Bayern win more Bundesliga titles.
The Bavarians have been doing just fine in that regard for over decades to stay modest. Even though Bayern will likely clinch the first four-peat in league history this weekend, that would not take away the big blemish on Guardiola’s record at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern hired Guardiola to push the team to a new level, a tricky task given that the club were freshly-minted treble winners when he took over. And Guardiola would never be able to fully reach that level unless it yielded another Champions League title or two along the way.
Fair or not, success was always going to require a European triumph, and even Guardiola acknowledged as much before Bayern’s semifinal clash against Atletico Madrid.
“If we don’t win the Champions League this season, my tenure here will not be perfect, but I’ll just have to accept that,” Guardiola told reporters last week.
He’ll have to accept the brunt of the blame now, too, after Atletico edged his side to reach the final on away goals. It marked the third straight year Guardiola’s Bayern, one of the two or three heavy favorites to win the competition going in each season, failed to even make the final, beaten by a Spanish side in the semis.
Two years ago, it was the ignominious 4-0 loss to Real Madrid at home that did them in. It was Bayern’s worst-ever home defeat in Europe, and Guardiola was badly outcoached by his incoming successor, Carlo Ancelotti.
Last season, Barcelona’s three-pronged attack was simply too much for Bayern. The Germans fought valiantly at the Camp Nou until capitulating in the final 15 minutes, surrendering all three goals in a 3-0 loss. It left Bayern with no chance to advance, even after a spirited 3-2 win in the return leg.
Those two semifinal exits at the hands of the eventual champions were, and probably still are forgivable.
But in this semifinal tie against Atletico, Guardiola got his tactics wrong again. He egregiously decided to leave Thomas Muller, Bayern’s best player in 2016 and joint-top scorer in the Champions League, on the bench for 70 minutes of the first leg in Madrid.
Just like that, Guardiola had gone 0-for-3 in the Champions League with Bayern.
Of a truth, Guardiola’s tenure at Bayern will never be remembered entirely unfavorably. He did too much good there. But football, like any sport, is a goal and results-oriented business. And at Bayern, Guardiola failed to deliver the one result he really needed.