Pep needs Champions League success to win over Bayern fans, says Neil Humphreys
Guardiola must win Champions League to leave behind a legacy at Bayern
ROUND OF 16, 1ST LEG
JUVENTUS v BAYERN MUNICH
(Tomorrow, 3.40am, Singtel TV Ch 111 & StarHub TV Ch 202)
The banner said it all. Pep was never our thing anyway.
The slogan was written in German, but the sentiment certainly wasn't lost in translation.
In Barcelona, Pep Guardiola will always be revered. At Bayern Munich, he is simply respected.
For that relationship to change, he must win the Champions League before he leaves for the billionaires and blank cheques at Manchester City.
Bayern's trip to Juventus tomorrow morning (Singapore time) is now dipped in gravitas. It's Guardiola's first Champions League match since the City announcement.
The suits in Manchester expect him to succeed where he has so far failed in Munich. The irony is lost on no one, particularly those critics at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
It may have been a solitary banner, but the petty jibe lingered longer than Bayern's 3-1 victory over Darmstadt.
Guardiola's impeccable track record, domestically at least, earns begrudging plaudits, but he's never quite reached the universal acclaim enjoyed by Jupp Heynckes.
His predecessor realised an unbeatable ambition, winning the Treble before retiring, but the complicated relationship between the club and their current coach is not just about trophies.
On the contrary, Guardiola has improved the aesthetic without compromising the athleticism.
Bayern are no less ruthless now, with conventional No. 9 Robert Lewandowski underlining the coach's ability to bend his Barcelona principles to accommodate an old-school assassin up front.
But the swift interplay between Arturo Vidal, Arjen Robben and the imperious Thomas Mueller remains just as easy on the eye, both fast and fluid. Guardiola's boys are a force of finesse.
So why bring out the banner? Even allowing for a splash of sarcasm to mask bruised egos, why say Guardiola was "never our thing"?
Perhaps, it's because he wasn't. With their usual lack of diplomacy, City shouted from every rooftop that they had courted Guardiola like a lovesick teen hounding the high school prom queen since 2012.
That's a year before he joined Bayern. City also insisted that negotiations were only on hold. They were never postponed indefinitely.
In other words, the German side offered an entertaining stop-gap, a comfortable seat-warming exercise beyond the glare of the harshest media spotlights in England, Spain and Italy.
Bayern gave Guardiola a unique opportunity to continue his coaching education in a benign environment.
He could tinker with an unbreakable machine, secure in the knowledge that he was essentially managing Germany's Celtic in their one-team league.
He was left alone to play in his new sandbox, while his former Barcelona colleagues Txiki Begiristain (City's director of football) and Ferran Soriano (City's CEO) got his new classroom ready in Manchester.
Even if that's not the reality, it's a perception that's difficult to shake.
Vidal admitted yesterday that the players learnt of Guardiola's impending move to City only on TV, which hardly endears the Bayern faithful to Guardiola.
The impression remains among the banner wavers that their coach was just killing time until the stars aligned in Manchester.
The only remedy for such cynicism is a victorious Champions League campaign, beginning with Juventus.
The form guide certainly favours the German giants. Juventus have failed to defeat Bayern in the Champions League in four attempts.
The Italian champions have lost only two of their last 34 games in the tournament. On both occasions, Bayern were the victors.
But Massimiliano Allegri's men have not conceded a Champions League goal in Turin all season, so there's a sense that something has to give.
A 0-0 stalemate is an unlikely outcome, with Bayern the joint top-scorers in the group stages with 19 goals and Juve's Alvaro Morata knocking in six from eight European starts.
But neither side are particularly flying. Juve's 15-game winning run in Serie A ended at the weekend with a dull 0-0 draw at Bologna and Bayern needed to come from behind to beat Darmstadt.
Bayern haven't quite mirrored City's downward spiral since the Guardiola story broke, but recent performances have been rather listless.
Mueller's relentless energy and unerring accuracy, along with Lewandowski's insatiable appetite for goals, have carried their side to Bundesliga victories.
Bayern's forward line, along with Vidal's titanic battle with former Juve teammate Paul Pogba, should determine the game's outcome.
But all eyes will be on Guardiola. He's the elephant in the dugout.
His reputation hasn't been diminished in Germany, but Bayern fans are not convinced that it's been enhanced either.
They like him. But they do not necessarily love him.
Only the Champions League can change that now. Even the pragmatic Germans love a winner.
It’s going to be a difficult match. Juve are clever, the stadium is superb. I’m looking forward to it. we failed to make best use out of our chances (against Darmstadt)... we have to deliver a different performance against Juventus.
— Bayern Munich striker Thomas Mueller
We know that Bayern are one of the three best teams in the world, but we’re playing at home and Juventus Stadium will give us a real boost. Every team have their weaknesses and it’s our job to find them. we’ll give it a good go and be ready for the battle.
— Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli