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Guardiola's legacy

Jefferson ChaseMay 4, 2016

Pep Guardiola may not have fulfilled every expectation during his time in Munich. But as DW's Jefferson Chase points out, it would be very presumptuous of the chattering classes to dismiss his legacy.

Fußball Champions League FC Bayern München gegen Atletico Madrid
Image: Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach

So now that we know that Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola will not crown his three-year Bayern interlude with the biggest title in club football, pundits can commence passing judgement on the Catalan's reign. Did the iconic coach live up to his aura as the sport's one great mastermind? Or did he fail to achieve a doable mission of taking a club with vast resources and nearly unequalled domestic dominance back to the very summit?

When reading the arguments that will be bandied to and fro, it's best to bear in mind the role that fortune plays in football. Statistical experts estimate that anywhere from one third to one half of the game ultimately comes down to luck. Great teams assert themselves over time because the breaks even out eventually. In a single match or even a home-and-away tie, the spectrum of possibilities is broad.

What better example is there of that than Guardiola's final Champions League campaign with the Bavarians? To get to the semifinal in the first place, Bayern needed a last-gasp goal against Juventus in the quarterfinals - an unlikely scenario for even one of the world's top teams.

Chase Jefferson Kommentarbild App

Conversely, against Atletico, the Bavarians came up agonizingly short as the clock ticked down. Theoretically, Bayern would have gone through, had the usually reliable Thomas Müller converted his penalty after 33 minutes. On the other hand, and equally theoretically, they would have had no chance at all of a late winner, had Atletico's Fernando Torres made the most of his penalty five minutes from time. How much direct influence did Guardiola have over any of this? Very, very little.

The Catalan was roundly criticized for leaving Müller on the bench at the start of the first leg in Madrid. Will he be similarly attacked for fielding Müller in Munich? That would be absurd. The lesson: great coaches put their teams in frequent positions to win given the talent at their disposal, but they still necessarily have to roll the dice. That's football.

In 1999, despite being the better team, Bayern Munich lost a Champions League final to Manchester United after a pair of injury time goals. Two years later they won that very title, beating Valencia 5-4 in the jackpot that is a penalty shoot-out. Even football giants need luck to win the biggest prize there is.

Both Guardiola and everyone connected with Bayern Munich will regret that they never bagged the triple under the Catalan coach. And it's true that if you coach a team with the Bavarians' resources, you're supposed to contend for titles and win a few of them. Conversely, you need only recall the Jürgen Klinsmann era on Säbener Strasse to see what happens to a perennial champion under a coach who's out of his depth.

Guardiola is likely to leave Munich with a third Bundesliga title, possibly two German Cups and three straight appearances in the Champions League semifinals. The record could have been better. But it also could have been a hell of a lot worse.

Despite this, our Twitter poll on Tuesday night suggested many football fans see Guardiola's reign as a failure. Tell us what you think in the comments section at the bottom of the page.