Bayern Munich won’t compete in next week’s showpiece European Cup final, but the German champions walk away from Pep Guardiola’s final season with a well-earned domestic double.
Finishing the season with 88 points in the Bundesliga – 10 ahead of rivals Borussia Dortmund – the top-two powerhouses in German football brought the curtain down in the capital on Saturday. After no goals in 120 minutes, the 73rd German Cup was decided on penalties – Douglas Costa scoring the decisive kick to give Bayern the golden trophy for a record 18th time.
But this final was more than about an extra trophy. Bayern were determined to give Guardiola the ideal send-off. The Spanish coach has divided most observers from the outside of the club – fans and journalists – but his staff at the Allianz Arena can’t talk highly enough of him. His intensity, a demand to get the best out of his team, and his ingenuity in training will undoubtedly be missed.
“I will miss everybody,” he told reporters in Berlin after breaking down in tears before the trophy presentation. “I have had such a wonderful three years here at Bayern. I will miss everybody with whom I have worked at this club. But most of all I will miss my players. For three years, I have spent 24 hours a day thinking about them.”
He continued: “21 titles in seven years, three titles per year – that’s not bad. But I was lucky because I was able to coach Bayern Munich and Barcelona: both clubs are outstanding. They have players that will help you to do the best. But my record in Germany is not just about titles. It was also living in Germany, the Bundesliga, the packed stadiums – everything was very, very good.”
Defining moment of the season:
After 28 wins in 34 league games, Bayern delivered many memorable moments this season. The crushing 5-1 win over Borussia Dortmund was perhaps the optimal performance of the season. It had everything: complete ball dominance, nullifying BVB’s perceptive combinations, powerful, robust forward play and a barrel load of goals.
But every Bayern – and most neutral Bundesliga fans – will remember where they were on Tuesday, September 22. In the space of nine minutes, Lewandowski scored five goals and collected four Guinness World Records for his efforts. Guardiola’s reaction of shock and has been snapped and GIF’d for the social media age.
This wasn’t just a moment of individual brilliance; this was a display of Bayern’s might. Off the bench, against the team tipped as their closest challengers, and in sublime fashion, Lewandowski wrote his name into Bundesliga records, leaving the 70,000-or-so spectators with a lasting memory.
Player of the season:
Picking out a continued standout is challenging. Many of Bayern’s key players peaked at different stages of the season. Lewandowski, of course, was outstanding, scoring 30 in 32. Jerome Boateng was the early cornerstone of the team before his injury in January, which ruled him out for several months.
In defence, Joshua Kimmich has adapted to his new role with maturity and class. The 19-year-old, naturally a central-midfielder, has earned a call-up to Joachim Löw’s 27-man squad ahead of the European Championships.
Signed for a combined 50 million euros, Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal have brought an injection of chaos and uncertainty to Guardiola’s team. Costa ends his first season in Germany with 14 assists, while the Chilean was Bayern’s saviour on many occasions in high-pressure games. Vidal turned the game against Juventus, scored decisively in both legs against Benfica, while impacting the games against Atletico Madrid. There was no other who did so more effectively than Vidal.
The summer heralds a new era for Bayern: the arrival of three-time European Cup winner, Carlo Ancelotti. What will be intriguing to observe is just how the Italian – a former coach of Real Madrid, Chelsea, Milan and PSG – looks to stamp his own ideas on the current squad. The club has strengthened with deals for Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Renato Sanches of Benfica.
The German champions are blessed with a brilliant squad, improved under Guardiola who has broadened the tactical knowledge, opened up new possibilities to his players. That sort of influence, similar to Louis van Gaal, will benefit Bayern for years to come. Therefore, it would be no surprise to see the Bavarians competing on all fronts once again next season.