Pep scores: Ger 1, Eng 0

SC
A day before he was named Bayern Munich's coach for next season, Pep Guardiola had spoken of his love for English football, and his desire to one day manage an English club. Context is everything; Guardiola was speaking ahead of the English FA's 150th anniversary celebrations. But this didn't stop the English media from speculating that he was angling for the top post at Chelsea or Manchester City.

In four seasons at Barcelona, Guardiola won La Liga three times and the Champions League twice. Serving a one-year, self-imposed sabbatical, the 41-year-old was easily the most coveted coach in world football.

Chelsea and City, perhaps the two most nakedly ambitious clubs in world football, were desperate to land him. But Guardiola chose Bayern. Like Barcelona, Bayern have pedigree, wealth, a gigantic fan base and an academy that produces world class talent. Simply apart from looking like a snug fit, however, Guardiola's appointment might just signal a shift of power at the top of European football.

For the last few years, German and English football have pursued diametrically opposite paths to success. Last season, the Bundesliga was the most profitable league in the world, reporting operating profits of 154m, compared to the Premier League's 68m. The majority of clubs' shares, by rule, are owned by members, and clubs are required to submit balanced budgets to continue competing in the league.The Premier League makes the biggest revenues, but spends 70% of those in player wages (the Bundesliga figure is 53%). Clubs routinely end the financial year in the red. Last year, City recorded a 97.9 million loss even as they won their first top-flight league title in 44 years.

This, of course, didn't hurt their owner Sheikh Mansour who tops football's rich list with his wealth estimated at 20 billion nor will such losses deter the likes of Chelsea's Roman Abramovich, who spent over 400 million in nine seasons before realising his dream of winning the Champions League.

With UEFA slowly tightening the net around European clubs with its financial fair play rules, the Chelsea/City model looks increasingly unsustainable. The Bundesliga, in contrast, seems primed for longer-term success. Guardiola to Bayern might just represent the first step in an era of European domination.

(Karthik is a senior correspondent based in Delhi)

karthik.krishnaswamy@expressindia.com

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