Munich - Five months and nine days after Bayern stunned the football world with the announcement that Pep Guardiola would be taking over has head coach, the Spaniard was finally presented at FC Bayern Munich.
"Who’s your German teacher?"
Over 250 journalists from across the globe squeezed into the press conference room of the Allianz Arena to hear Guardiola’s first public address in his new role. Despite being flanked by club president Uli Hoeneß, chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and sporting director Matthias Sammer, Guardiola gave the distinct impression, largely expressed in impressive German, that he will need no help at all in this job.
A cacophony of clicking cameras and excited murmuring greeted Guardiola as he calmly took to the podium to pose for pictures before the assembled press. That calmness was a sign of things to come, as he navigated his first official media duty with a style, ease and friendliness that will make reporters in Germany relish those that will follow in the coming season.
“Guten Tag” he began confidently, before adding “Grüß Gott”, a greeting that displayed a hearty touch of affection for his new Bavarian surroundings. “Please forgive my German; I’ve learned all this off by heart,” he added with a smile, before recounting, still in German, his efforts to learn the language, prompting the club's press officer Markus Hörwick to ask: “Who's your German teacher?”
Pleasantries aside, Guardiola soon revealed his hunger for, and appreciation of the "new challenge" that now awaits him in Munich. “I'm delighted to have been given the opportunity to coach this team and I’m very grateful to the club,” said the 42-year-old. “When FC Bayern call you, it’s an honour. It’s a privilege for me to be able to coach this team.”
After a lengthy sabbatical in New York, during which time he took to learning German and watching Bayern games in preparation for his new position, the 47-time former Spanish international was categorical about his willingness to get started: “I'm ready. I had a wonderful time at FC Barcelona [whom he coached between 2008 and 2012], but I needed a new challenge.”
Guardiola also had a startlingly simple answer to the question on everybody's lips: why had he chosen FC Bayern and why the Bundesliga? “I am here because of the history of this club; only a few clubs in the world can rival Bayern in terms of history,” before citing the opportunity to work with the present squad as a huge attraction.
Rummenigge admitted he had taken some persuading initially, but when Hoeneß recollected how the agreement had been reached, it was clear to everybody just how good a match Guardiola looks with his new club. “I visited his apartment in New York and after speaking with him for five minutes, I knew Pep was the right man for the job.”
More to come
Guardiola was equally articulate and graceful when asked about his predecessor, who led Bayern to the . "Jupp Heynckes did a great job here and I am pleased to be taking the job after him. My aim is to change a few things, but still maintain the high level that the team has. There is always pressure on the coach, regardless of whether the team won the treble or not."
Trophies will ultimately be the currency in which he is expected to deal as head coach of Europe's best team for the duration of his three-year contract, but until he leads his first training session on Wednesday, all that can wait. This was about first impressions, and Guardiola's in Munich could hardly have been better.
Bernie Reeves reporting from the Allianz Arena