Bayern Munich’s star-studded squad is set for a shake-up following their Champions League semi-final defeat to Barcelona as Pep Guardiola prepares to fulfil the final year of his contract.
Having lost the first-leg 3-0 in Barcelona, Bayern delivered on their pre-match promise to fight until the final whistle in Tuesday’s return leg at the Allianz Arena to beat Barca 3-2 on the night, but ultimately bowed out 5-3 on aggregate.
It is scant consolation for Guardiola that the victory ended Bayern’s four-match losing streak which eventually led to them exiting both the Champions League and German Cup at the semi-final stage.
Injuries to wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery had robbed Guardiola of pace and width when it was needed most and the squad was reduced to bare bones by ailments and knocks on occasion.
For the second year running, Bayern were found wanting in the last four of Europe having been beaten 5-0 on aggregate by Real Madrid in last season’s semi-finals.
“It’s been a year of truth,” admitted Guardiola, who has won five titles in his two years in charge of Bayern, but has ‘only’ won the Bundesliga this season.
“It’s been a hard year. Ten of the squad have had operations and many difficulties with injuries.
“I am very proud of my players, they have taken every opportunity to attack this season, despite the set-backs, and we’ll be here again to tackle next season.
“We have to think about what mistakes we made and I hope that we can play better next season.”
Guardiola looks set to fulfil the final 12 months of his contract having repeatedly dismissed reports claiming he will succeed Manuel Pellegrini as Manchester City coach next season.
– Fresh talent –
Both before and after the Barcelona match in Munich, Guardiola confirmed he will be back next season to attempt to win a fourth consecutive Bundesliga title for Bayern.
But Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer has criticised Guardiola for selling winger Xherdan Shaqiri to Inter Milan in January and sending midfielder Pierre Hojbjerg on loan to Augsburg.
The honorary Bayern president says the Bavarians must recruit fresh talent to keep the current crop of ageing stars fighting for their places.
Ribery, Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Xabi Alonso and captain Philipp Lahm are now all the wrong side of 30.
“I can imagine Bayern will buy new players,” said Beckenbauer.
“Some players are over 30, so how long can they still play?
“The games are getting more and more intense. That’s why you have got to have a big squad.
“But if half of the squad is injured than you have bad luck. So, I can imagine the squad will be changing.”
Bayern need to plan for the future and with a pot of around 100 million euros at Guardiola’s disposal, it is clear who are the main candidates to be sold on and replaced.
The future of World Cup-winner Mario Goetze is unclear as the attacking midfielder has largely spent most of the last two seasons on the bench.
The 22-year-old has shown only glimpses of his undeniable talent and his moment of magic in the Brazil 2014 final at the Maracana is the glaring highlight of two largely unproductive seasons at Bayern.
Even Schweinsteiger, long regarded as a chosen son of Bayern, has only a year left on his current contract and would fetch a high price if Munich cash in on his status as Germany captain.
The ultimate goal of Guardiola’s final season will be to win a sixth European crown for Bayern.
The Spaniard has said merely winning the league or cup title is never enough for a title-hungry club where only the treble or Champions League title satisfies Bayern’s cravings for silverware.
But for his players, bringing the German league title to Munich for the 25th time has been no small achievement as they prepare for their final final league matches against Freiburg and Mainz with the title secured.
“Of course, we made too many mistakes in the decisive games, but it can’t be the case that every season without a treble isn’t a good season,” said Thomas Mueller.
“You have to sometimes accept things the way they are, we’ve signed off this season in the right way.”