Pep Guardiola speaks in German at Bayern Munich press conference
MUNICH (AP) -- Pep Guardiola knows it will be tough to improve the Bayern Munich team he's taking over - and will settle for maintaining the level of success it reached this past season.
Bayern displayed the kind of dominance that Guardiola's Barcelona teams were known for, winning the Champions League, Bundesliga and then the German Cup - meaning the Spanish coach will have a tough task to follow in the footsteps of Jupp Heynckes, who was gently pushed toward retirement.
"I'm taking over a team that played extraordinarily. They won four titles, three plus the (German) Supercup against Borussia Dortmund,'' said Guardiola, who led Barcelona to Champions League triumphs in 2009 and 2011. "I'll try to reach the level set by my predecessor.''
Speaking in impressive German on Monday for his first news conference as coach of the European champions, Guardiola said he was lured to Bayern "above all'' by the club's players, management and history.
"There are few teams in the world as special (as Barcelona). Bayern Munich is one of these teams. When Bayern called me it was an honor. That's why I'm here. I said, `Prima.' I'm here for these players and this history,'' Guardiola said.
After greeting more than 240 journalists with the traditional Bavarian salutation of "Gruess Gott,'' Guardiola began by saying, "Today it's not only a pleasure, but a gift to be here.''
Guardiola steered Barcelona to 14 titles over four seasons when the Spanish club was widely considered the best in the world, and the 42-year-old coach is expected to build on Bayern's unprecedented success last season to establish the club as football's new leading side.
"My time in Barcelona was wonderful but I needed a new challenge and Bayern Munich have provided that opportunity. So I'm ready, for this reason, to do my best,'' he said. "I'm sure that everyone, the fans of Bayern Munich, will remain proud of their players.''
Guardiola took a one-year sabbatical after coaching Barcelona, leading to a host of clubs vying for his services. But Bayern won the race, and his appointment on a three-year deal was announced in January.
"The bosses decided that I would be coach and that's what happened. They rang me,'' Guardiola said.
"We had talks, negotiations,'' Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. "But from the first day you have the feeling that both sides wanted this partnership.''
Bayern president Uli Hoeness said Guardiola had always expressed enthusiasm for the job.
"He said, `I can imagine working for Bayern.' Now he's here,'' Hoeness said.
Rummenigge said the club's domestic rivals will also benefit from Bayern having enlisted Guardiola as coach.
"Pep's presence here in the Bundesliga will enrich German football,'' the former striker said.
Guardiola, in his playing days a classy midfielder for Johan Cruyff's Barcelona, asked for time to settle into his new role, saying he still needed to get to know the players, assess the youth setup and the structures already in place.
"I need more time to get to know the Bundesliga perfectly,'' he said "I lived in New York a year and I watched all the games every weekend, especially Bayern's games. I think it's very, very good. It's not simple, this Bundesliga. I have to get used to the players and the opponents as soon as possible.''
He comes face to face with his former club on July 24 when Bayern plays Barcelona in a friendly in Munich.
"I don't know how I'll feel but it will be a special game for me,'' he said. "I'm here because of what I did in Barcelona. I'm sure it'll be a good game, a good preparation for the Supercup three days later against Borussia Dortmund.''
Praised for his language skills, he pointed out that his German teacher is a Dortmund fan.
"She wouldn't let me come here,'' he joked.
After winning the treble last year, Bayern can add the European Supercup and Club World Cup in Guardiola's first season in charge.
He achieved that feat before, in 2009 with Barcelona, and the expectations on Bayern are likely to be sky-high for this upcoming season.
Guardiola said repeatedly that he can handle those expectations.
"In big clubs you always have huge pressure,'' Guardiola said. "I have that pressure here, but I'm confident in myself. I'll take this huge challenge on, no problem. That's why I'm a coach.''
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