Bayern Munich wrapped up a brilliant season of European competition with a last-gasp 2-1 win over arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.
They finally exorcised the agonising ‘finals demon’ that seemed to jinx them in the past two of three finals. Bayern lost to Inter and more recently (perhaps most painfully), lost last season’s defeat at their own backyard to Chelsea in a match that they completely dominated.
That heart-breaking anguish fuelled their pursuit this season and redemption was achieved. Along the touchline, another tale took shape as the outgoing architect, retiring manager Jupp Heynckes, celebrated the second of what could be three trophies won in a profoundly dominant season.
Already champions of Germany in record fashion, Heynckes' Bayern steamrolled to the Champions League final with authoritative two-legged victories over European powerhouses Juventus and even more impressively, a 7-0 aggregate demolition of Barcelona.
Bayern showed intent from their first group game and maintained the tempo, quietly disposing their opponents with little fuss. With the European crown now in the bag, only Stuttgart in next weekend's German Cup final can prevent Bayern from claiming their historic treble and a place among Europe's greatest-ever teams.
Personally, Heynckes is not far behind.
A Champions League winner with Real Madrid in the 1998/99 season, he can claim two European titles, three Bundesliga crowns and much of the credit for Bayern's potential place in history.
Even for a manager of Pep Guardiola’s pedigree, that leaves very little room for improvement. He won all there was to win at Barcelona and elevated them to the highest echelons of club football. Pep’s Barcelona became the ultimate blueprint of brilliance, the team everyone looked up to.
Now, after a certain team from Germany completely walked over them, scoring seven times while conceding none in the process in a show of total and absolute domination, the flag-bearers have changed.
It’s no longer Barcelona, it is Bayern.
Pep, the tiki-taka mastermind who revolutionised the passing game and won 14 major trophies in Catalonia is set to take over at Bayern in a month’s time. For the remaining days, there is only one thought that will constantly be etched in his mind, what can possibly be done to improve the team he is about to take over.
His task will be made all the more easier by the capture of Mario Gotze and even more telling, Robert Lewandowski is reported to be close to agreeing a deal. Bayern have such an impressive strength in depth that players such as Holger Badstuber (injured at the start of the season), Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez and even Arjen Robben were used sparingly. Add to that, their productive youth academy hint at a very strong possibility that Bayern, with Pep, may possibly be dominant for as much as a decade, and that is a very long time.
Pep is a proven winner and a great man-manager. He will instill his passing philosophy on a group of players who already look at home in possession. Bayern were second only to Barcelona in possession stats in the entire continent, Jupp’s Bayern. Pep’s Bayern must surely keep the ball more. Their now retiring coach has brought back belief in them, mental strength even.
Bayern have it ingrained in them that they are better than anyone who comes before them, just look at the way they went about tearing Barcelona apart. There is no fear in Munich, and all that credit goes to Heynckes.
He has turned this group of under-achieving players into thoroughbreds. His legacy has been secured, what with the broken records and silverware. No man could have left Bayern in a healthier state. 34 years on the touchline deserves such a fitting send-off, a looming treble.
Pep takes over the reins at a club in its highest ebb and with a firm foundation for the future. It will not be easy but in all honesty, all things considered, the only way for Pep to go, and Bayern Munich, is lateral. He will need a miracle to top Heynckes’ Bayern.
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