"Pep is already learning German," said FC Bayern München chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as he gave the story behind Josep Guardiola's appointment as their next coach.
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"Pep has an unbelievable aura and charisma," said FC Bayern München chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the aftermath of Josep Guardiola's appointment as the club's next coach. "Although he's only 41, he's a very experienced and smart person. He knows exactly what he's doing and doesn't decide on a gut feeling, but with his heart."
Former FC Barcelona boss Guardiola will return to football in the summer after a one-year sabbatical, taking over at Bayern when Jupp Heynckes retires. It is a move that shocked Europe when it was announced on Wednesday. Many observers assumed the man who led Barcelona to three Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League successes between 2008 and 2012 was gearing up for a move to England, but Bayern had been keeping tabs on the Spaniard for some time.
"Two years ago we staged a friendly tournament here in Munich," Rummenigge explained. "Barcelona used our training ground and there were other times when we met [Guardiola]. We always had a good relationship and maintained this over the last few months. When Jupp Heynckes said before Christmas that he wanted to retire in the summer, we contacted Pep. Luckily for us, it didn't take long to realise that he has a great deal of feeling for FC Bayern."
Guardiola knows his new club well, having been given an extensive tour of the state-of-the-art Bayern training facilities during that friendly tournament in 2011. "His team were on a break during the tournament and he came to our VIP room," said Bayern president Uli Hoeness. "He had something to eat and to drink, and on his way out he told us: 'I can imagine working for FC Bayern one day.' We sat there for a while and thought: 'Well, that doesn't sound too bad.'"
The deal to bring Guardiola to Munich was secured at the end of 2012, and the club had initially planned to reveal all in March. However, to avoid further speculation, they came clean this week. "Pep is already learning German," said Rummenigge. "He started preparations a couple of weeks ago with a view to taking over on 1 July. He's fluent in Italian and English, so that will make things easier for him."
Bayern's players are looking forward to meeting their new trainer, though the resumption of the Bundesliga campaign and a UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against Arsenal FC will ensure that their focus remains on the here and now. "Hats off to our bosses," said captain Philipp Lahm. "Hiring such a successful coach is something you cannot take for granted. It shows how good the reputation of this club is."
"We are very happy he chose Bayern ahead of some big-name competition," added Rummenigge. "It was not about the money, otherwise he wouldn't be coming here in the summer. Bayern have a great reputation in the footballing world. We are a reliable, respected and well-structured club. The overall package was very appealing to Guardiola. For us, football takes centre stage."