Pep Guardiola retains Bayern Munich's faith despite recent difficulties
Who hasn't felt like throwing in the towel and walking away from it all after suffering huge disappointment in their professional life?
The Bayern Munich manager was precisely there -- at the end of the line -- when his team lost the biggest Champions League game of his reign in calamitous fashion. It was a game that simply couldn't be lost and the manager was experienced enough to pick up on the murmurs of discontent that followed inside the dressing room and at board level as predictably as the blue knight beating the red one at Munich's glockenspiel carillon in the city's main square.
He'd made the wrong substitutions, they said. His team's attacking play, based on slow build-up and positional switches in the final third, was too slow and easy to defend against. His opponent on the night, a novice at that level, had outsmarted him.
Off the record, players complained about his tactics. They loved him as a coach and as a man but weren't quite sure he really brought out the best of them. Neither were his superiors. The Bayern coach looked around and decided that, one year before his contract at the Allianz Arena was due to expire, he didn't need it anymore. He would be off.
It took late-night interventions from Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to sway the manager's mind. They talked him into staying around for another year and promised to bolster the squad according to his wishes.
The manager's name, by the way, was Jupp Heynckes, and the scenario played out in 2012 after Bayern were beaten in the Champions League final by Chelsea.
Modern football is drenched in nostalgia but it has no memory. None of the TV pundits, journalists and social media commentators who eulogise Heynckes' "more direct" side that won the treble in 2013 seem to recall that team passing Juventus to death, Barcelona-style, in the quarterfinal of the same year or Bayern choking on their own possession stats in the final "at home" vs. Chelsea 12 months earlier. You won't hear of the discontent that was prevalent within the club at the time either.
It doesn't fit with the current story of Pep Guardiola destroying Heynckes' treble winners, so it can't have happened. What also hasn't happened, because it can't have happened, was Bayern beating sides like Roma (7-1), Porto (6-1), Man City (3-1) and Shakhtar Donetsk (7-0) under Guardiola, playing attacking football of a quality and refinement that had never been seen in Munich in the modern era.
In those games and in far too many Bundesliga matches to recount, it became abundantly clear that Guardiola was indeed doing the job he had been hired to do, which was to establish Bayern among the very elite in European football and mould them into a side who would approach each Champions League campaign as favourites.
None of that matters as a Bayern ravaged by injury and low on energy will try to knock out Barcelona despite not quite believing that there is a realistic chance of doing so, given their 3-0 deficit from the first leg.
However, it matters insofar as what will happen next. Bayern -- both the players and the board -- do remember life before Guardiola.
And they've since seen him work, every day since July 2013, on the training ground. It's not a slight on Heynckes to say that Guardiola's training sessions at Sabener Strasse, just underneath the offices of the club's most important men, are considered to be in a class of their own. While at other clubs, players will take you aside and tell you all about the coach's flaws, members of the Bayern squad become even more effusive about his work off the record.
To underline their commitment to the manager, Bayern will publicly reiterate just how much they value him this week, regardless of the outcome of the second leg. Guardiola must avoid a heavy defeat to stop negative vibes dominating the agenda well into the summer, but the annoyance with which the rumours about his defection to Manchester City have been greeted within the corridors of power show the club have no intention of letting him go.
If the story that emanated from Doha was designed to unsettle the Guardiola-Bayern relationship -- as some at Sabener Strasse suspect -- it has failed its objective. If, on the other hand, it was planted to ascertain the extent of Bayern's trust in the man in charge, it has done its job.
Guardiola, for his part, didn't look entirely convincing when he insisted that there was nothing at all in the Manchester City link. If the story was not fabricated entirely by an interested third party -- a possibility that cannot be discounted if you consider its curious timing between two Champions League semis against Barcelona and the way it was put into wider circulation without running it by either club or Guardiola's people first -- it's still quite conceivable that somebody, somewhere is indeed discussing the ballpark figures of a future deal, to provide a least a theoretical exit route.
It's what agents and agents who work with other agents do, often as a matter of course. Bayern do not believe Guardiola is seriously contemplating to leave them behind just yet, however. The planning of next season's squad has already begun, with the coach's input.
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He joked on Friday that he will talk about extending his contract beyond 2016 when the journalists are "on holiday" in the summer, but the club will need a sign one way or the other well before, in order to accurately gauge how far his wishes can and should be accommodated going forward.
As much as they would like to provide him with the tools for one possibly final push next season, they have to keep an eye on what's good for the team in the mid-term, "post-Pep." Big, complicated subjects like the provision of medical treatment and the team's fitness levels, which is one of the very few areas where the club and some players are not entirely sure about his methods, will be much easier to resolve if Guardiola commits to more than his last season in charge.
Unlike mission -- almost -- impossible on Tuesday night, it's all down to Guardiola as to how this one will play out.
Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC's German football expert and a regular guest on ESPN FC TV. He also writes for the Guardian. Twitter: @honigstein.