The Bundesliga came back with a bang at the weekend after its month-long hibernation.
Schalke edged Hannover in a nine-goal bonanza, eight of them in a delirious second half.
Dortmund’s deadly double act Marco Reus and Mario Götze led the charge in their 5-0 win at Bremen; Bayern Munich continued their relentless march towards the title with another two goals from Mario Mandzukic.
It was the announcement that Pep Guardiola is joining Bayern next season that captured the headlines, however — and not just in Germany.
The Spanish papers were delighted, Guardiola’s move setting the seal on La Liga’s clean sweep of football’s awards and prizes. Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport instantly crowned him Kaiser Pep and predicted a “revolutionary impact on European football”. The only grumbles of dissent have come from English journalists arguing that Guardiola “ought to have come to the Premier League” and that he’d chosen a softer option.
That seems like a one-eyed view.
True, Bayern have dominated German football over the years. Financially they have much more clout than their rivals. The homegrown image only tells part of the story. In the last four years they’ve paid out huge sums for Mario Gomez, Manuel Neuer and most recently Javi Martinez: that’s about €110m alone.
But the Bundesliga has become much more competitive — and exciting — since it changed the rules and obliged clubs to promote players from their own and the national football academies. Bayern’s big rivals such as Dortmund have prospered: other clubs have also mounted a challenge. Bayern have had to fight hard for Champions League qualification on several occasions.
The club is not quite the model of German order and stability that is usually portrayed. Their board includes some big names and powerful personalities, and Uli Höness in particular has a record of falling out with people. But the attractions for Guardiola are obvious: a good crop of youngsters and a board that’s accountable to club members (as at Barcelona), solid business backing (Adidas and Audi), and a strong regional identity that must also appeal to a Catalan.
Is this the start of the “revolution” the Gazzetta predicts and that the Premier League perhaps fears? You can see it as a setback for the money men — Milan and Roma were two of the clubs making eyes at Guardiola, along with Chelsea and PSG and both Manchester clubs.
But Bayern are not some sort of Buddhist commune, despite their managerial experiment with Jurgen Klinsmann.
They have always been in the top 10 of Deloitte’s football money league and are currently fourth. Guardiola will also be paid a lot more than he was getting at Barcelona, even though less than was on offer at Chelsea and Manchester City.
One question is what impact such a high profile foreign coach will have on German football, and possibly elsewhere.
The Germans, especially Bayern, have been known to employ foreign coaches — but not many. Currently there are two: Lucien Favre (who is Swiss) at Borussia Mönchengladbach and Sami Hyppia at Leverkusen. The foreigners have almost always been from Austria, Switzerland or Holland — apart from Nevio Scala at Dortmund and of course Giovanni Trapattoni, who had two stints with Bayern.
Spain has always had foreign coaches, from Latin America mostly but also from Germany and Holland. You can argue that Guardiola is part Dutch himself, being the protegé of Johan Cruyff and indirectly Rinus Michels, and the successor to Frank Rijkaard. Of the 20 La Liga clubs eight currently have coaches from abroad.
By contrast Italy, which used to have a lot of foreigners, now has only two and one of them — Zdenek Zeman — left his native Czechoslovakia in 1968 and became an Italian citizen. France has just one foreigner, Carlo Ancelotti; the Netherlands two.
The two countries that seem set on putting foreigners in charge are Russia — 16 clubs, nine foreigners — and of course England.
Even if you count Alex Ferguson and Martin O’Neill there are still only 12 local coaches in the Premier League, the latest casualty being Nigel Adkins at Southampton, sacked just as Guardiola’s appointment was announced.
It would be nice to think Guardiola’s “snub” might prompt English football to think harder about why more local coaches are not rising to the top. Nice, but almost certainly unrealistic.
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