Sporting rivals rarely congratulate one another when a team makes a big signing. Yet that’s what happened yesterday when Bayern Munich announced it hired Pep Guardiola as coach from next season.
Moments after the news broke that the much-coveted ex- Barcelona coach had chosen Munich as his next destination, Hans- Joachim Watzke, chief executive officer of German champion Borussia Dortmund, offered words of praise.
“I think it’s fabulous, compliments to Bayern on this coup,” Watzke said. “It’s extremely good for the whole league because the world can see that it has got such a coach.”
Bayern, Germany’s richest team, signed Guardiola to a three-year contract through 2016 in a move that came soon after he said he’d like to coach in England’s high-profile Premier League. He’d been linked with some of the top clubs there including Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, as well as Italy’s AC Milan.
Bayern said the arrival of Guardiola would benefit not just itself but the whole of German soccer.
“We are very pleased that we have managed to sign someone like Pep Guardiola, who has been courted by so many famous clubs,” Bayern Chief Executive Officer Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a club statement. “Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful coaches in the world and we are certain that he can make not just Bayern, but all of German football, shine.”
While German teams play in front of the biggest attendances in world soccer, the Bundesliga’s global appeal lags that of Spain’s La Liga and the Premier League. The English league’s overseas television rights generate more than 10 times the amount the Bundesliga gets from selling its matches outside Germany. Guardiola could help raise that profile.
“Any big signing like this has the potential to increase awareness,” Nigel Currie, managing director of brandRapport, a marketing consultant, said in telephone interview. “The Bundesliga is a long way behind the Premier League in terms of international appeal.”
Guardiola, who turns 42 tomorrow, will join Bayern in July, the club said. He’ll succeed Jupp Heynckes, who’ll retire when his contract expires after the season.
The Spaniard left Barcelona after the 2011-12 season following a four-year stint in which he won two Champions Leagues and three Spanish league titles. He’s been on a sabbatical from the game since.
His choice of Munich is the latest boost for German club soccer. All three Bundesliga teams that qualified for the group stages of the Champions League made it through to the knockout round, with Dortmund helping eliminate English champion Manchester City.
Bayern, which had sales of 332 million euros ($441 million) last year, holds a nine-point lead over Bayer Leverkusen in the German standings as it seeks to extend its record of 22 league titles. Dortmund is three points further back in third.
Although it was beaten out in the league by Dortmund the past two years, Bayern did reach the final of the Champions League last season where it lost in its home ground to Chelsea in a penalty shootout. It’s won the elite European competition four times, the last in 2001.
Heynckes, 67, stayed on after the Chelsea defeat, but told club officials before Christmas of his plan to retire at the end of the season. He was in his third stint as coach, taking over for the fired Louis van Gaal after the 2010-11 season.
“In a very personal discussion with Jupp Heynckes, we assured each other that we will do everything we can to bring the 2012-13 campaign to a successful conclusion, and bring the title back to Munich,” Rummenigge said.
Heynckes previously led Bayern from 1987 to 1991 -- winning two leagues and two German Cup titles -- and then again in 2009 after Juergen Klinsmann was fired. He also won the Champions League title in 1998 as coach of Real Madrid.
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“As an adequate successor for Jupp Heynckes, only a coach of Pep Guardiola’s stature was going to work for us,” Bayern Chairman Uli Hoeness said.
A former Barcelona captain and 1992 European Cup-winner, Guardiola went on to coach the club’s reserve team. He was promoted to replace Frank Rijkaard in 2008 and established Barcelona as the top club team in the world.
Featuring players such as Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, Barcelona captured each of the six competitions it took part in in Guardiola’s first season -- including Spain’s La Liga and Copa del Rey, the Club World Cup and the Champions League -- and would win 14 trophies during his tenure.
Not that he’ll find the going easy at Bayern.
“The pressure on Bayern to succeed will certainly not be any less as a result of this,” Dortmund’s Watzke warned.
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