After the final whistle sounded, it took only a few seconds for Pep Guardiola to disappear down into the depths of the Munich arena.
A quick hands shake with Atletico coach Diego Simeone and the 45-year-old Spaniard quickly departed the scene of a painful defeat and an unfortunate end to his time working for Bayern Munich.
Bayern won the second leg 2-1 but had lost on away goals after losing the first leg 1-0. Bayern Munich coach Guardiola had won his last Champions League game for Bayern Munich but had to give up all his dreams. The goals scored by Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski were not enough because Antoine Griezmann scored the all important goal for Atletico.
Like the last game in the Champions League, the relationship of Guardiola and Bayern was pure drama and not only when it came to the final chapter, meaning the semifinal against Atletico Madrid when Thomas Mueller missed a penalty to spoil Guardiola’s last chance to make it to the top of the Champions League tree with Bayern Munich.
Here a man who left his home country to conquer the football world and then was beaten by Spanish clubs on three occasions. In 2014, it was Real Madrid, in 2015 Barcelona and then this year by Atletico Madrid. From a German point of view, the Spaniard was not enough to break his country’s recent club dominance.
He might have chosen the wrong tactics against Real when Bayern was beaten 5-0 on aggregate. He could not present his best team when facing Barcelona one year later because many of his key figures were sidelined due to injury. He was “unlucky” when facing Atletico Madrid and in the end a single goal was all that was missing to reach the final in Milan. That is real football drama.
The football gourmet, teaching football like a work of art, was this time brought down to earth by a pragmatic style of football which many don’t like but which is not on the football’s forbidden list. Guardiola credo is not to only look at the pure result, but the way of getting there. Now he was beaten by a pure disillusioning result.
What now remains of Guardiola and his three year era in Munich? First of all, the 45-year-old was a helpful door opener when it came to the German club’s international strategy. With Guardiola on board, the Bavarians changed far more than ever before in their history and have become a club with international status.
In addition, when Guardiola joined Bayern he was the most wanted coach in football. After his era in Barcelona, and no doubt it was down to the era when he won the Champions League in 2009 and 2011, he disappeared in the urban canyons of New York taking a sabbatical and like a nice surprise turned up in the training sweater of Bayern Munich. To entice a figure like Guardiola at the time gave Bayern Munich’s reputation a big boost.
The adventure started with the dream to combine probably the best coach with the best team. Now you can ask did the combination pay off? When it comes to titles, Guardiola did a good job so far, but not an excellent one. When it comes to tactical matters, Bayern Munich improved and developed into a shining example not only for German clubs, but for many clubs abroad as well. Many in Germany admit, Bayern have played the best football ever.
But was it what Bayern and Guardiola expected in the first place? Looking at titles in the competition that counts on the European stage, it wasn’t.
Three years and in every year the same old dreadful story with the same headline: Semifinal but no further. Now the final conclusion of Guardiola’s German episode could be: Guardiola the unfortunate, Guardiola the unfinished. In spite of everything that the Spaniard achieved with Bayern Munich, he did not manage to make his and the club’s dream of winning the Champions League come true. Nothing less was Guardiola’s goal. He failed when it comes to that dream.
Now Guardiola will make his next attempt in the English Premier League with Manchester City. And Bayern Munich is looking forward to the next era of a coach with a unique international reputation. Carlo Ancelotti has managed to win the Champions League three times, one more than Guardiola. The Spaniard won’t leave behind anyone crying their eyes out. Guardiola’s era will be seen as a project that did no harm to Bayern Munich but he won’t find a place among the coaches that gained a hero-like status.
He might never have wanted to be a Bavarian hero, Guardiola insisted on retaining his independency, every day and every week of his time in Germany. He never dedicated his coaching life to a club that has expected more passion and desire from his coach who was not willing to give.
There are still two things left for Guardiola and Bayern. They will have to finish the job of winning the German championship which they can clinch in their next game. And they will have to finish the job in the Cup when they take on Borussia Dortmund in the final.
When it comes to the league championship, they are an almost certain to wrap it up this weekend. It will be the fourth consecutive national title no other club managed to win before.
When it comes to the thrilling duel against their biggest rivals Borussia Dortmund, things are much more complicated. It will be a challenge to get over the huge disappointment left by the Champions League nightmare against Atletico Madrid.
Guardiola and Bayern will have to prove whether they have the power to at least create a happy end, even though the end could have been happier.
“We made it to the semifinal three times. I did my best, but I’m very disappointed. I gave my life for this team,” Guardiola said with sad eyes. “I told the team that I am proud of them. Spanish clubs have ruled European football in the last years. It looks like as if they are not finished yet,” added Guardiola.