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Is it Champions League or bust for Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich?


Rumors began circulating during the weekend that Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola is about to embark on his last season with the Bavarians. Some believe he’s already agreed to become Manchester City’s manager next season. Whether or not the four-time La Liga Manager of the Year leaves remains to be seen but this upcoming campaign will define his legacy in Germany.

His tenure with Die Bayern has by no means been a failure. He’s led his side to back-to back Bundesliga titles, one DFB-Pokal Cup victory, beat nemesis Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup and also the FIFA Club World Cup. The problem is that in both seasons, his squad started strong and faltered at the end of the season. Two years ago, Bayern defeated Hertha Berlin 3-1 on March 25 to win the Bundesliga in record time. Clinching the league title early seemed to make his squad lose motivation and by the time they played Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final, their early season form was gone completely. They lost on a 5-0 aggregate including an embarrassing 4-0 loss at home where Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos each scored a brace.

The following season, injuries plagued Pep’s team as three of his world-class players couldn’t play in the Champions League semi-final against his former club Barcelona. David Alaba, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben’s pace, athleticism and creativity would’ve helped their team immensely but without them they didn’t stand a chance. Bayern lost 5-3 on aggregate including a 3-0 loss at the Camp Nou where Guardiola had to watch his star pupil Lionel Messi deliver a magical performance scoring a brace and Neymar, who Pep wanted to sign when he joined Bayern Munich but the board preferred Mario Gotze, added a goal. Heading into this campaign, the 2011 FIFA World Manager of the Year has signed some reinforcements to make sure his squad can get over the hump in the Champions League.

Douglas Costa arrives from Ukrainian powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk for €30 million. The Brazilian international is seen by many to be Ribery’s replacement due to his constant problems with an ankle injury. The attacking midfielder will provide something the German giants lost when they sold Xherdan Shaqiri to Inter Milan.

“We needed a player with a lot of quality in one-on-ones. He is young, has played in the Champions League and has international caps. We’re convinced by him,” said Guardiola to FCB.TV after the Costa signing became official.

Club legend Bastian Schweinsteiger decided to leave his boyhood club after 17 years of service to go to Manchester United. Maybe the club predicted that the World Cup winner would leave the side because in January they acquired Joshua Kimmich from VfB Stuttgart. The fee was for €7 million. While the 20-year-old has yet to have a first team appearance, many believe that he has the potential to become an important player for his club and country. Kimmich is humbled by the opportunity to join the premier team in his nation.

“Bayern could have bought any No. 6 in the world. It is an honor that they chose me. Bayern is a different world and I will have to get used to that. I have to work hard to stand the pace,” said Kimmich.

When Jupp Heynckes left Bayer Leverkusen for FC Hollywood in 2011, he tried to bring his star player Arturo Vidal with him. Vidal decided to sign for Juventus instead but fours years later it seems like the Chilean international is on his way to Bavaria. The deal is supposed to be done this week for €28 million, with an €8 million potentially in add-ons. Vidal isn’t the conventional Guardiola player but maybe the board is already planning for life without the Spaniard.

No team has ever won the Bundesliga crown four years in a row and Bayern are expected to do it with no real challenger to their throne. The real test for the club is in the Champions League and if they don’t win the tournament this season then it may be best for Guardiola and Bayern Munich to sever ties.

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