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Jun 24, 2013

Guardiola lives up to the hype

Pep Guardiola entered the Bundesliga stage on Monday with a broad smile on his face and said his first words as the new Bayern Munich coach: "Guten Tag, Gruss Gott meine Damen und Herren". They had been long awaited.

• Backed to succeed
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• Pep Guardiola profile
• Schaaf: Pep is ready

Unprecedented media attention in Germany greeted Guardiola as, at 11.58am CET, about 20 photo reporters stood at the side of the press room at the Allianz Arena, their cameras directed at the door through which he entered. A giant screen behind the podium showed a picture of Pep saying "Herzlich Willkommen, Pep!" ("Welcome, Pep!").

When Guardiola arrived at 12.06 CET, followed by Bayern president Uli Hoeness, CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and sporting director Matthias Sammer, the murmur hushed and the cameras clicked, taking pictures of the new Bayern quartet. The Pep era had finally begun.

The whole scene was reminiscent of one of the late Steve Jobs' public appearances, presenting the latest addition to the Apple series. Guardiola took to the stage and answered the first couple of questions in German. "It is a gift that I am able to be here, that Bayern even considered signing me," he said. "I would like to thank Bayern Munich for allowing me to be their coach."

Over the past few weeks, every German newspaper, online outlet and radio station ran features on the former Barcelona man. On Monday morning, a Northrhine-Westphalia radio station played "the songs Pep listens to", while minute-by-minute coverage of Guardiola's impending arrival had kicked in as early as last week.

Before that, a picture of a Guardiola lookalike on Munich local transport did the rounds of the German media, with renowned papers such as Suddeutsche Zeitung guessing that the coach had arrived early and was using public transport to get into downtown Munich. This, however, turned out not be the case and, when Guardiola finally landed at Munich airport late on Sunday, the online outlets of German newspapers carried pictures of the new Bayern boss passing through customs within minutes.

On Monday, live coverage on various German TV channels kicked in during the early morning hours, all leading towards the big bang: the first Guardiola press conference, the first public appearance. TV stations reported live from the pre-sales for the first two public training sessions at the Allianz Arena in Munich. The tickets were sold for €5 with all proceeds going to the victims of the recent flooding in Germany.

There has been media hype of a sort not seen in Bundesliga history around the arrival of Guardiola. Over 200 journalists attended the press conference at the Allianz Arena, and Bayern have announced a full week of live coverage on their website. The club will broadcast the first training sessions live, as well as the first two pre-season games against a local XI in Weiden on Saturday and TSV Regen on Sunday.

Guardiola takes over a Bayern team that has won the historic Treble - the first German team ever to do so. He will inherit a squad that erased just about every Bundesliga record during the 2012-13 season.

"I have to be able to live with this," he said. "There is always big pressure at a big club. I have this pressure here, I am aware of that. But I take on this big challenge as a coach: that's why I am working as a coach. Sometimes you take over a club that has recently been relegated - that was the case in my first year with Barcelona B - and sometimes you take over a club that had trailed the champions by 18 points."

"The situation at Bayern today is completely different. When you are the coach at FC Bayern you have to play good all the time, you have to always win. That is the situation."

"I am convinced we will be successful from the very beginning," Sammer said, whlie Rummenigge said it filled him with pride that Bayern were working with Guardiola. "At the end of the day you want to win titles. The most honest title is the Bundesliga title, and the most enjoyable is the [Champions League] title we won in London," he said.

"The measure is the Bundesliga, and we want to play a good role in the other two competitions. We will handle the pressure in a serious fashion."

"On the one hand, it surprises as he has strong affinity for England," Carles Rexach, 66, told kicker. Rexach had been Johan Cruyff's assistant at Barcelona for six years, and has known Guardiola since his La Masia days.

"On the other hand, it seems like Bayern's consistent development throughout the last years has impressed him. That Bayern now have won the Treble makes the challenge even bigger, but that will only push him on."

Rexach, like many others, does not fear that Guardiola will fail at Bayern. "He will go through a development, even if he is not that successful in sporting terms. He will grow. But Bayern will also learn from him," he explained.

Guardiola, who had been learning German under the tutelage of a Borussia Dortmund supporter during his sabbatical in New York, will need to win over the dressing room - and that is, maybe, the biggest challenge for him. But Bayern captain Philipp Lahm recently said he believed Guardiola would adjust to the Bavarian club.

During the press conference, Guardiola explained that this was his plan, saying: "I have to adjust to the players 100%. Football belongs to the players. The fans come to the Allianz Arena to see the players. I have to adjust to the high quality of the Bayern players. The players are different to the players from Barcelona. The system does not matter."

Bayern go into the new season as the title defenders in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League. Even after the announcement of Guardiola's appointment back in January, the side did not falter but, under coach Jupp Heynckes, continued to enjoy the best season a Bundesliga team has ever played.

"It is a great honour for me to be his successor. I hope I can keep that level," Guardiola said. "I have not spoken to Heynckes yet, but I am hoping to get in touch with him soon. I have the highest respect for him, not only for his success last year but also for his achievements during his career."

While Bayern have been making only positive headlines in the sporting department, the Hoeness tax case has cast a shadow. At the weekend, German media outlets reported that Munich prosecutors could press charges against the Bayern president in July. The Hoeness situation had disappeared from the German media in May, but the court case - if it I happens - will get huge media attention throughout Germany in the next few months.

"I love to attack. That is my idea of football," Guardiola said as he finished his first press conference. That philosophy is something Bayern and the Bundesliga can look forward to next season after an impressive first public appearance by the new coach, who put the focus back on the game after weeks of media hype.

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