The Pep Episodes XXXIX
This article is part of a partnership with Grup 14, an organization dedicated to Futbol Club Barcelona and supporters around the world. The Pep Episodes is created by Alex Truica and originally published at Grup14.com.
There goes a saying in Germany that when Bayern are wounded, they are the most dangerous, hitting back even stronger. The semi-final exit to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League surely left a deep wound, so on Monday, after winning their fourth Bundesliga title in a row, the proud Bavarian club reacted in it’s usually way: By spending big.
Bayern showed their muscles to Europe, this time not their sporting muscles, but their financial ones: Within 40 minutes, they announced the signings of Mats Hummels and Renato Sanches from Borussia Dortmund respectively Benfica Lisbon. For world champion Hummels, it’s reported Bayern paid around 36 Million Euros, while Renato Sanches could be much more expensive over the next years. The initial fee for the Portuguese teenager is 35 Million Euros, as both Bayern and Benfica declared, but with further add-ons, the deal could rise up to 80 Million Euros. Sanches is an rather unproven 18-year-old midfielder, his purchase is quite an (unusual) gamble for the German Champion. But they wanted to prove a point, apparently.
Accordingly, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s headline said: “Bayern are only interested in Europe anymore”, meaning the Champions League, “the only standard” for Pep Guardiola’s team. Pardon me, for Carlo Ancelotti’s team, of course. The two signings are a pretty decent welcome gift to their new coach.
Sanches, a dynamic box-to-box midfielder, is Portugal’s hottest prospect and was reportedly a top target on Manchester United’s wish list – but Bayern just snapped him up; just like they do when they send out a message of their strength. “FC Bayern has been watching Renato Sanches for a long period,” commented chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, “we’re pleased we’ve been able to sign him despite big-name international competition.”
For their other new signing, Dortmund’s captain Mats Hummels, there hasn’t been that much of a competition – simply because it was for quite a while clear that he’ll go back to Munich. With only one year left on his contract and the clear desire to go back to his childhood club, Bayern maybe overpaid a bit for Hummels. “You can throw money out of the window”, bleated weekly newspaper Die Zeit, saying Bayern would develop their roster with their (bulging) checkbook. Do they even need Hummels and Sanches that much? That might be up for debate. Bayern are “substantiating their supremacy”, notes Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “no other Bundesliga club can afford these kind of transfers”.
It should, theoretically, increase the pressure on Carlo Ancelotti on winning the Champions League and and maybe the treble, a mission that haunted Pep Guardiola in his three years in Munich. And yet most likely fans and media won’t demand the same from the Italian, for whatever reason.
While Ancelotti, wherever he might be at the moment, must be pretty happy with Bayern bolstering their squad, Guardiola received good news from England – for the moment at least. Manchester United lost 2-3 to West Ham United on tuesday evening, meaning that Guardiola’s next club Manchester City are in control of their own destiny again regarding a spot in the Champions League qualification and can spare themselves and their future coach a rather embarrassing tour through the Europa League.
Guardiola surely won’t admit that, nor will he even talk about ManCity while he’s in Germany, as he already said a couple of times. He’s focussed on winning the double with Bayern after celebrating the Championship on Saturday. Well, not sure if celebrating is the appropriate word, since there was some talk that it has been quite the reserved festivity, not only on the pitch in Ingolstadt after the final whistle but later in Munich as well.
It indeed was a reserved way of celebrating, surely due to their painful UCL exit to Atletico a couple of days before. But Guardiola still was very proud and happy about the title, his third in three years in the Bundesliga – no other coach managed to do that in his first three years. Besides that, writing history by winning four championships in a row, Guardiola paid tribute to his predecessor on Bayern’s bench: “I would like to share this title with Jupp Heynckes,” the Catalan said humbly. “Many thanks to everybody, to all the people in Germany, I’ve been delighted with the experience I have had here. I want to pay a huge compliment to everybody who works here, to the fans and to the exceptional players. Every single one of them have helped us. And big compliments too to Borussia Dortmund, who have been huge rivals for us.”
In Dortmund, they hope to be even bigger rivals next season. But without their defensive cornerstone Mats Hummels, that might have gotten a little bit harder.
The Pep Episodes is a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich exclusively written for Grup14 by Alex Truica, a freelance sports journalist and editor. You can follow him on Twitter.