I’ve just read this fascinating story on Guardiola’s move to Bayern in today’s El Pais. It’s so interesting I decided to translate it to English so you can all read it in full. The original story was printed in Germany’s Der Spiegel.
On the 26th of July 2011, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness are sitting in a VIP restaurant at the Allianz Arena when a man with a shaved head walks in and sits at a table across the room. He’s alone. When they realize who it is, Rummenigge gets up and goes over to greet Pep Guardiola. ‘Can I speak to you a moment?’ asks Guardiola. Rummenigge makes a sign to Hoeness. They order three espressos. At that moment Rummenigge and Hoeness don’t have a clue of Guardiola’s intentions, but of course they want to speak with him.
Guardiola, who has travelled to Munich with Barça to participate in the Audi Cup, comments that he likes Bayern. In the morning he has seen the club’s installations in Sabener Strasse and now the Allianz Arena. ‘Your philosophy is very interesting’, he says. He then goes on to say something that neither Rummenigge or Hoeness expect: ‘I can see myself coaching here one day’.
‘It was an unmistakeable statement that came directly from him’ says Rummenigge. From him, from Guardiola. He was the one who made the first move towards Bayern, not the other way round. Still, today, on recalling that day in one of the club’s offices, Rummenigge seems perplexed. He shakes his head. ‘I don’t know if in that moment I would have dared to ask him: can you imagine yourself training Bayern Munich?’ On leaving, Guardiola gave Rummenigge a note with his mobile number. Rummenigge keeps it. He knows he has a little treasure in his hands.
Pep Guardiola’s younger brother and his main advisor Pere Guardiola takes up the story. ‘The truth is I was surprised when Pep called me and told me “I have given my number to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in Munich, I think he will call me”’. Pere is sitting in a board room on the 14th floor of a Barcelona skyscraper. He is the manager of Media Base Sports, an agency founded in 2009 which works mainly with Barça players. He has negotiated a contract with Bayern in his brother’s name. A ‘nice contract’ in his words. Eight or nine precise pages, ‘in a way, very German’
When he gets back from Munich Pep tells his brother that it’s not just the training facilities and the new stadium. Guardiola is also impressed with the squad, which is very intelligently structured and with ‘two or three small adjustments’ will reach an incredible potential.
Pere knows his brother likes traditional teams. Ajax, Juventus, Manchester United Bayern. In Germany it’s possible that Bayern are synonymous with huge sums of money but outside Germany they are known more for the glorious era of the 1970s. Pere explains that his brother is a ‘romantic’ and that ‘tradition, history, past heroes, that type of thing’ means a lot to him. Before becoming a football agent Pere worked for Nike. ‘This type of thing’ doesn’t seem so important for him. He’s not a romantic. He’s someone who since last summer has had to relate to the big money of world football. He has been inundated with envoys from Inter, Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG, Milan…they all wanted Guardiola.
‘I called Giovanni and I put him on Bayern’s case’, explains Pere. Giovanni Branchini is one of the best known agents in Italy, an old acquaintance of Hoeness and Rummenigge. He is considered to be discreet and professional. He brought the Brazilian Ronaldo to Barça and later to Inter Milan. ‘It couldn’t seem as though we were offering ourselves to Bayern. My brother only wanted to be sure that they understood that he thought Bayern was an interesting team’ explains Pere. Branchini had to organize a meeting.
In the autumn of 2011, after a Champions League game at BATE Borisov, Guardiola mentions in front of president Sandro Rosell that maybe he would not renew his contract. The news caused a great commotion in the offices of the blaugrana board.
On January 13 2012 Uli Hoeness belatedly celebrated his 60th birthday in Munich’s Postpalast. Among the 475 guests was Giovanni Branchini, the agent. The middle man. He sat with Rummenigge and gave him the message from Guardiola’s brother. What Guardiola had said at the Audi Cup still stood. After the meeting Rummenigge periodically telephoned Guardiola. At the end of April 2012, the coach announced he was leaving Barça. Immediately after Pere began to receive calls on a daily basis from other top clubs, but in front of his brother Pep only spoke of Bayern.
Pere has his eyes on the English Premier, he wants his brother to appreciate the advantages of the ‘very serious English’. The offer from Man City is especially interesting. They send Txiki Begiristain, Barça’s ex-sporting director. Begiristain knows Guardiola won’t be seduced only by money. They speak of a ‘project’ and of 150 million that can be invested in new players. Maybe even more.
But Pep continues with his fixation for Munich. He gets Branchini to call Rummenigge from Italy and tell him that after a year’s break in New York he wants to return to work as a coach without hesitation. And could they speak at some point. Rummenigge asks if it’s a good idea to meet with Guardiola before he flies to the US. ‘Do it’ replies Branchini.
In July 2012 Rummenigge flies to Barcelona. Pere Guardiola meets him at the airport. They go to a friend’s house, outside the city. There they spend nearly six hours together. Pep Guardiola attempts to explain to Rummenigge his opinions about football and Rumminigge tries to explain how Bayern function. Rummenigge explains that half of the team’s training sessions are open to the public, which is not usual on the international scene. Guardiola would have to get used to this. Pep points out that he does not give individual interviews, only press conferences. Rummenigge wants to know if Guardiola is thinking to bring an entire team of his own people, trainers and specialists, as Van Gaal did. No, responds Guardiola, saying that he only needs three of his own people and the rest he doesn’t care: ‘if you have good people at Bayern, I will work with them’.
At the beginning of November Rummenigge receives a call from New York. ‘I want to coach Bayern’.
Guardiola immediately gets himself a German teacher in New York who must promise not to speak to the press. ‘Like everything, he went at it in an obsessive manner. Four hours a day, like a madman’, confirms Pere. A few months later, towards Easter, Guardiola spends six days in Barcelona. He hires a German teacher who goes everywhere with him. ‘It’s absurd. You meet your brother for breakfast and he doesn’t stop speaking German with his teacher’. Pere Guardiola confirms that Pep didn’t take long to be able to speak German, you need to be very obstinate to achieve that’.
In the weeks before Christmas 2012 Hoeness flies to New York to get to know Guardiola and to take advantage of the occasion to present him with the contract. Their meeting had to be a secret. Pep Guardiola sent a car with darkened windows to pick up Hoeness from New York’s Four Seasons hotel. Together with Guardiola’s brother and two bodyguards, Hoeness crosses Manhattan until they enter a subterranean car park. Guardiola’s apartment, at 320 Central Park West, has a private lift and four bedrooms and it belongs to a German executive banker. The rent is $31,000 a month.
Hoeness is there for four hours. Guardiola’s wife, Cristina, cooks. After eating the coach shows the president his ideas of possible formations and lineups for the following season. In New York he has watched all sorts of Bayern’s matches on television. And he is convinced that Bayern is the next team capable of taking on Barça.
Can Guardiola again make an era with Bayern like he did with Barça?
The true nature of a person becomes clear in defeat. Seen in this manner practically nobody can say who Guardiola really is…since he still hasn’t failed. It could happen in Munich; Guardiola could lose….against himself.
© 2013 Der Spiegel