Football Features

Where are they now? The Bayern XI from the “biggest f**k-up” of Pep Guardiola’s managerial career

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 13:00, 26 March 2021

Pep Guardiola is preparing his Manchester City side to face Borussia Dortmund in a massive Champions League tie.

This will be the first time that the ex-Bayern boss faces his old Bundesliga rival since the 2016 DFB-Pokal final. Then, he saw Bayern run out 4-3 winners on penalties after the game ended in a goalless draw, but he could never bring European Cup glory to Bavaria.

He did manage to reach the Champions League semi-finals on three occasions; the first saw him square off against fellow continental royalty Real Madrid whom Guardiola knew like the back of his hand, the former Barcelona coach saw his Munich side lose narrowly 1-0 in Madrid before getting torn apart 4-0 at the Allianz Arena.

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Guardiola has since referred to that second-leg defeat as “the biggest f***-up of my life as a coach,” also saying: “I got it wrong, man. I got it totally wrong. It’s a monumental f***-up. A total mess. I spend the whole season refusing to use a 4-2-4. The whole season. And I decide to do it tonight, the most important night of the year. A complete f***-up.

There’s no doubt that Guardiola did indeed get his tactical set-up wrong, personal tragedy between both legs perhaps clouded his mind although he’d never admit it. But what is also true that his players, who lobbied Guardiola hard to play that same 4-2-3-1 (or 4-2-4 as Pep calls it) all season utterly failed to deliver when given their preferred formation.

But where are those players now? We’ve had a look, so read on and find out!

Starters:

Manuel Neuer

Age: 34
Bayern appearances: 424
Bayern goals: 0
Current club: Bayern Munich

Manuel Neuer is a monstrous goalkeeper who, just a couple months after getting slapped by Madrid went on to be the best player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, winning it with Germany. Right now he’s still at Bayern Munich and following a difficult phase returned to former glories — helping Bayern win their sixth European crown — subsequently cementing his place as Germany’s no. 1 ahead of stiff competition.

Philipp Lahm

Age: 37
Bayern appearances: 517
Bayern goals: 16
Retired in: 2017

Lahm was hailed by Guardiola as one of the smartest players he’d ever worked with, and sure enough he played two positions to an elite level under the Spaniard. He is currently retired, having stepped down after winning a fifth consecutive Bundesliga title (his eighth overall) in 2017.

Jerome Boateng

Age: 32
Bayern appearances: 354
Bayern goals: 10
Current club: Bayern Munich

Boateng built from the Madrid defeat and got even better, becoming truly imperious for the next year (winning the World Cup) until Leo Messi dropped him in the following year’s Champions League semi-final. He’s been in steady decline ever and even though Bayern have over €100m of young centre-back talent at the club, Boateng is somehow still on their books too.

Dante

Age: 37
Bayern appearances: 133
Bayern goals: 5
Current club: Nice

Dante was taken through hell by Real Madrid and then by Germany themselves a few months later as he was on the pitch for Brazil’s 7-1 hometown hammering at the World Cup. Not good. He’s currently at Nice, however, and playing quite nicely.

David Alaba

Age: 28
Bayern appearances: 421
Bayern goals: 33
Current club: Bayern Munich

Alaba was a young stud back in 2014, and then Pep Guardiola turned him into one of the most complete players in world football. Struggled mightily without Guardiola’s guidance and, whilst still at Bayern, he’s set to leave in the summer of 2021 with Real Madrid a potential destination.


Bastian Schweinsteiger

Age: 36
Bayern appearances: 500
Bayern goals: 68
Retired in: 2019

Everyone’s favourite German statesman was a rock at the heart of the Bayern midfield for over a decade before moving on to Manchester United and then Chicago Fire. Retired in 2019 after a glittering career and currently spends his time taking nice pictures of he and his wife Ana Ivanovic on Instagram.

Toni Kroos

Age: 31
Bayern appearances: 205
Bayern goals: 24
Current club: Real Madrid

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Not long after the debacle against Madrid did Toni Kroos leave Munich for the Spanish capital. Since then he’s been a key passing cog that helped Real Madrid win three straight Champions Leagues. Nowadays he needs two runners in order to function at a high level against elite opponents, but alongside Casemiro and Fede Valverde he can still get it done.

Arjen Robben

Age: 37
Bayern appearances: 309
Bayern goals: 144
Current club: FC Groningen

The Dutch dynamo goes down as one of the greatest players in Bayern history. Hell, that status was already assured in 2014 thanks to his winning goal in the 2013 Champions League final. Anyway, he played on after this and then retired in 2019 before going back on that commitment by returning to boyhood club FC Groningen.

Franck Ribery

Age: 37
Bayern appearances: 425
Bayern goals: 124
Current club: Fiorentina

Bullied into silence by Dani Carvajal back in 2014, Ribery will always be one of those “what if” players because even though he made over 400 appearances for Bayern the fact that he played for them over an entire decade means he should have made much, much more. Injuries are what they are though. Left for 2019 and joined Fiorentina amid reports of retirement.

Thomas Muller

Age: 31
Bayern appearances: 571
Bayern goals: 212
Current club: Bayern Munich

Bayern’s killer forward got better and better under Pep Guardiola and then couldn’t seem to hit his peak levels in what should be his peak years. However, the self-confessed Raumdeuter (or “space interpreter”) is enjoying a creative renaissance of late.

Mario Mandzukic

Age: 34
Bayern appearances: 88
Bayern goals: 48
Current club: AC Milan

The workhorse who was subbed off at half-time against Madrid left Bayern that summer. He tangled with Real Madrid plenty though, first playing for Atlético Madrid (losing in the quarter-finals) and then Juventus (losing in the 2017 final despite scoring an overhead kick!) – he’s currently enjoying a backup role at AC Milan.

Subs:

Javi Martinez

Age: 31
Bayern appearances: 262
Bayern goals: 14
Current club: Bayern Munich

Bayern’s injury-ravaged utility man came off the bench back in 2014 and is still at Bayern now, basically doing the same thing.

Claudio Pizarro

Age: 42
Bayern appearances: 437
Bayern goals: 125
Retired in: 2020

Everyone’s favourite Peruvian veteran was a useful sub during his second stint at Bayern after being a stud striker the first time. At the grand old age of 41 he was still playing in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen, but the 2019/20 season proved to be his final season.

Mario Gotze

Age: 28
Bayern appearances: 114
Bayern goals: 36
Current club: PSV Eindhoven

The man who stabbed Borussia Dortmund in the back only to find out he didn’t have the iron will to make it at Bayern Munich was a sad sub in 2014 (he was a happy sub a few months later when he came off the bench to win the 2014 World Cup for Germany). Guardiola always believed in him but once the Catalan left Bayern, so did Gotze. He’s now at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven after spending time on the bench watching the next generation of geniuses do their thing at Borussia Dortmund.

Unused Subs:

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg

Age: 25
Bayern appearances: 25
Bayern goals: 0
Current club: Tottenham

Hojbjerg was a teenager Guardiola was preparing for the big time back in 2014 and whilst that never happened for him he’s currently a key player for Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham side after impressing at Southampton.

Lukas Raeder

Age: 27
Bayern appearances: 3
Bayern goals: 0
Current club: VfB Lubeck

Raeder never made the grade at Bayern and after a spell in Portugal the goalkeeper is currently playing in the third tier of German football.

Rafinha

Age: 34
Bayern appearances: 266
Bayern goals: 6
Current club: Unattached

Rafinha was a Bayern squad player for damn-near a decade. He left for Flamengo, did a Continental Double with the Brazilian side and then lost the Club World Cup final in extra time. He’s currently a free agent following one season with Greek outfit Olympiacos.

Daniel van Buyten

Age: 43
Bayern appearances: 239
Bayern goals: 28
Retired in: 2014

Big Daniel van Buyten retired after the 2013/14 season finished as his contract was not renewed.