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14 July 2024

Barca-mania sweeps Bayern Munich


"Mia san Mia" - "We are who we are" is Bayern Munich's motto and Pep Guardiola will find out exactly what it means to coach the Bavarian giants when he takes office on July 1.

Bayern pulled off a coup for the Bundesliga last Wednesday by revealing the 42-year-old will take charge for the 2013/14 season, rubbishing speculation the ex-Barcelona boss had been destined for England's Premier League.

A full five months before Guardiola's first day in office, the German media has been in a frenzy following Wednesday's announcement with the Spaniard set to remain in New York's Manhattan for the foreseeable future.

"Since everyone seems to be going crazy about Guardiola, let's not get carried away and concentrate on the football," president Uli Hoeness demanded after Saturday's latest win kept Bayern nine points clear in the league.

But the softly-spoken Guardiola will face a hype maelstrom when he finally arrives under the expectation the success he tasted during his four years at Barca, with his vision of 'Tiki-Taka' total football reaping 14 trophies, will be repeated in Munich.

Despite having waxed lyrical about the Premier League only last Tuesday, Guardiola's decision to choose Germany over England is best explained by the boom the Bundesliga is experiencing.

On average, 42,000 fans watch each game and the Bundesliga enjoys the lowest ticket prices with the highest average attendance of Europe's five major leagues.

With admissions starting from as little as 10 euros (US$13) and average prices around 22 euros (US$ 29), match tickets double as free rail passes for supporters travelling within the host city.

Guardiola has done his homework and will join one of European football's powerhouses: Bayern are in rude financial health with a star-studded squad.

While many of Europe's top clubs are propped up by wealthy businessmen, Bayern has returned a profit for each of the last 20 years and Munich's Allianz Arena is regularly sold out with capacity 71,000 crowds.

Germany stars Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber and Thomas Mueller are all home-grown. Eight of the squad have regular places in the national squad.

Under the Bundesliga's '50+1' rule, which forbids an individual owning a controlling share, the Bayern Munich sports club owns an 81.8 percent stake, while sponsors Audi and Adidas each have 9.1 percent - without a Russian or Arabian investor in sight.

Last year, Bayern announced a bumper turnover of 373.4 million euros (US$496.3m) and pre-tax profit of 11.1m euros (US$14.9) for the 2011/12 season.

But having been forced into Borussia Dortmund's shadows for the last two seasons, Bayern have won nothing since May 2010 and are desperate for titles.

Working alongside director of sport Matthias Sammer, Guardiola will fit into the club's conservative ethos having charmed Hoeness and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in July 2011 when he first told them he wanted to work at Bayern.

He has been studying German since November, but staying onside with Hoeness is another skill Guardiola must master.

Passionate and quick to defend Bayern's proud history, Hoeness has been instrumental in removing previous coaches when results dip.

Having spent 30 years as general manager before replacing Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer as president in 2009, Hoeness, a 1974 World Cup winner with West Germany, is the club's driving force.

He is a personal friend of the current Bayern coach, which explains why Jupp Heynckes, 67, will finish his two-year contract in June despite failing to win silverware during that period.

USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked in 2009 after just 10 months in charge, while Dutch coach Louis van Gaal was jettisoned in April 2011 when league results went against them.

Bayern last won the Champions League in 2001 and having reached the 2010 and 2012 finals, the club's craving for more European success will need to be satisfied.

Chelsea's record of eight managers since Jose Mourinho left in September 2007, may have been a key factor in Guardiola reportedly turning down Blues' owner Roman Abramovich - but Bayern have had six changes in the same period.

"(Guardiola) is being praised to the heavens so much that he can't possibly do himself justice," Felix Magath, who was sacked by Bayern in 2007, commented at the weekend.

It's up to Pep to prove him wrong.