Pep Guardiola spoke of his “honour” at joining “one of the biggest clubs in the world” after being officially unveiled as Bayern Munich’s new head coach yesterday.
The 42-year-old Catalan, returning from his year-long sabbatical after four trophy-laden years with Barcelona, replaces treble-winning boss Jupp Heynckes in the Bayern hot seat and cannot wait to get started.
“I am ready,” he said. “My time at Barcelona was wonderful, but I needed a new challenge and Bayern Munich gave me this opportunity.
“They are a club with great players and a great history and I chose Bayern because they are one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“When Bayern call you, it’s a great honour and that is why I am here.”
That call came last December, although Guardiola’s move to Bayern had been in the pipeline for much longer, according to club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“We had been working on it for a long time to convince Pep to come to Bayern,” he said.
“It started two years ago when we had the Audi Cup and (president) Uli (Hoeness) and I drunk a coffee with him and we discovered he had a soft spot for Bayern.
“He liked the philosophy and the team and we’ve remained in contact with him, and it became more intensive over the last year when we were deciding who would be our coach from July 1.
“We’re delighted, and proud to have appointed the most successful coach in the world.”
When Guardiola’s appointment was announced in January, it was not clear how successful Bayern’s season would turn out.
Under Heynckes, the Bavarians went on to claim an historic treble of Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League titles — becoming the first side in German football history to accomplish such a feat.
He therefore has some big shoes to fill, but is not fazed by the prospect.
“I’ve got to be able to live with it,” he said. “In a big club, you always have a lot of pressure and I have a lot of pressure here, but I know this.
“But I am accepting this big challenge without a problem. That’s why I’m coach.
“Sometimes you take on a team who was a relegated, and that was the case in my first year as coach of Barcelona’s B team.
“Then you can get a team 18 points behind and that was my case with Barcelona’s first team.
“The situation today is completely different. I am taking over a team who were extraordinary last season. They won four titles — three plus the Supercup — but, when you are coach of Bayern Munich, no matter what the situation is, you have always got to play well and have always got to win.”
Replacing Heynckes is therefore less of a burden and more of an incentive for Guardiola. “I have a lot of respect for what he achieved not only last season, but also throughout his extraordinary coaching career,” he said.
“For me he it is a great honour to succeed him and I hope to maintain the level the team played at last season.
“I want to maintain this high level and that is my challenge. There is lots of pressure, but I’ve got to accept it and be capable of coping.”
Guardiola lived up to his reputation for meticulous preparation by demonstrating an excellent early command of German.
However, his commitment to studying a new language, and strict orders from his personal tutor, prevented him from getting to know his new club more than he already does.
“My teacher’s a Borussia Dortmund fan so she wouldn’t let me come over to see them,” he joked when asked if his decision not to attend any of Bayern’s games last season was out of respect for his predecessor Heynckes.
The 42-year-old has nevertheless been following the Bundesliga closely from his New York apartment during a one-year sabbatical and he is now raring to get going.
“I need more time to get to get to know the Bundesliga perfectly, but during the year in New York, I saw all the games each weekend, above all Bayern’s ones,” he said.
“I have a very high opinion of the Bundesliga. It’s not an easy league and I’ve got to adapt to it as quickly as possible.”
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