Pep Guardiola is undoubtedly one of the most influential and successful managers in world football. 21 major trophies, including two Champions League wins, in 8 years speak for themselves. After his six memorable years in Barcelona, which obviously need no further discussion, the Spanish manager moved to Germany. During his 1095 days spell at Bayern Munich, Guardiola has won 5 out of 9 domestic competitions, while completely dominating the Bundesliga winning the league three times in a row averaging 2,41 points per game. It would be foolish to say that Guardiola had a negative impact on German football, because his team once again overshadowed every other club in the league and his tactical mind-set has influenced a whole generation of young coaches in the Bundesliga. Most notably Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann have admitted that new Manchester City manager is a role model for them and Tuchel and Guardiola even met on a few occasions to discuss tactical approaches.
However, without discrediting Guardiola’s own mark or his tactical brilliance, I want to focus on something that went slightly unnoticed during his time in Munich: his long-term squad planning which is getting exposed now under Bayern’s new manager Carlo Ancelotti. Before Guardiola arrived in Germany, Bayern Munich had a brilliant transfer plan of buying all the best German players and Bundesliga players, which automatically weakened their opponents and improved the Germany’s record champions.
The player still had to adjust to the playing style of Bayern’s former managers Ottmar Hitzfeld, Louis van Gaal or Jupp Heynckes, but this strategy was efficient and built Bayern’s supremacy in the Bundesliga. Mario Gomez, Mario Götze, Luiz Gustavo, Miroslav Klose, Manuel Neuer and Lukas Podolski are just a few players who joined the German giants from Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Köln Schalke or Stuttgart to play for the best team in the league.
A change of the transfer philosophy, whether it was forced by Guardiola or Bayern’s board, is nothing unacceptable in general, but it’s worth looking at it to analyse whether the new approach worked out or not. By just looking at the facts, you will see that during Pep’s reign just 7 out of 16 arrivals came from another Bundesliga club. Two of those, Götze and Kirchhoff, had already agreed to join the Bavarian team, before Guardiola took over. Sinan Kurt, Sebastian Rode, Robert Lewandwoski, Sven Ulreich and Joshua Kimmich are the remaining player which have been signed by Bayern during Guardiola’s time at the club. Seven signings from Germany in three years and four of them have left Bayern Munich almost immediately.
Looking at the players who are still at the club, we first have Robert Lewandowski, who signed for Munich on a free transfer. The Polish striker is one of the best players in the world and definitely considered as a successful signing, because he not only improved Bayern’s squad but also weakened Dortmund’s. Then there is Joshua Kimmich who joined Bayern Munich from Stuttgart for just €8,5m, which is also a great deal for a versatile, young German player. Sven Ulreich deserves no notable mention considering that he’s Bayern’s back up goalkeeper and will never play ahead of Neuer. Every Bundesliga player that came to Munich under Pep’s guidance and is still the club, can therefore at least be seen as decent signing.
However, this needs to be seen in the bigger picture as Guardiola destroyed the former principle of forming a team out of the best Bundesliga player by immediately selling Luis Gustavo, Mario Gomez, Emre Can and Niels Petersen, three out of them to Bundesliga rivals. In the following summer of the 2014 Toni Kroos left Bayern Munich directly to join Real Madrid, this sort of thing barely happen at Bayern before. In addition, he got rid of Mario Mandzukic, another player who joined Bayern from Wolfsburg beforehand. In his last summer in Germany, 2015, Guardiola sold the club legend Bastian Schweinsteiger to Manchester United and allowed Mitchell Weiser and Claudio Pizzaro to leave on free transfers.
Meanwhile Guardiola had spent over €100m to sign payers from other parts of Europe like Medhi Benatia, Juan Bernat, Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa, which are certainly top players, but they also underline the change of transfer philosophy. At the same time, a lot of quality players, like Draxler, De Bruyne and Firmino, have moved away from Bundesliga clubs to join European top clubs and Bayern couldn’t or didn’t want to sign any of them. Guardiola’s signings were not particular bad, but they haven’t significantly improved Heynckes Champions League winning side.
In addition to that, Guardiola hadn’t focused on developing young talent, what everybody expected to see from him after his time in Spain. Instead of that Guardiola sold Emre Can, Jan Kirchhoff, Alesandro Schöpf, Mitchell Weiser and Sinan Kurt and especially Can and Weiser would be capable of playing for Bayern Munich regularly in the future.
Looking at Bayern’s squad now, it fairly obvious that most of the key players have passed their prime. Xabi Alonso, Franck Ribery, Phillip Lahm Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer are all in their thirties, while Robert Lewandowski, Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Thomas Müller are currently playing at their best level aged 28. Bayern almost certainly have to spend over €150m to replace them in the next summers, which is also a sign of poor long-term planning from Guardiola. The three only young first team regulars are David Alaba, Joshua Kimmich and Kingsley Coman. Bayern have the oldest squad in the league averaging 27 years, while their main title rivals, RB Leipzig, have the youngest.
The Bundesliga is now more competitive than ever and Bayern might be in a better position now, if they had concentrate on cleaning up in Bundesliga and collect the best German players. Everybody has to judge themselves, whether Guardiola or Bayern’s board was right to change the transfer system, but it shouldn’t be Bayern’s aim to strengthen their oppositions. This topic gets even more interesting considering that Bayern Munich have just signed the Hoffenheim duo Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy, which can be considered as a classical Bayern move and could be the start of a return to Bayern’s former transfer strategy.