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Soccer-Bayern's Guardiola secures league title in farewell season
May 7, 2016 / 5:48 PM / a year ago

Soccer-Bayern's Guardiola secures league title in farewell season

BERLIN, May 7 (Reuters) - Pep Guardiola's time at Bayern Munich may be remembered for his failure to secure European success, but the Spaniard will still be guaranteed a warm send-off after leading them to a record fourth straight Bundesliga title on Saturday.

Bayern's 2-1 win at Ingolstadt wrapped up a 26th German crown for Bayern.

It was Guardiola's third straight title since he joined them in 2013 and he can still add to his haul of domestic silverware when Bayern face Dortmund in the German Cup final on May 21.

He would, however, have hoped to crown his third and final season in Germany with the treble, a dream dashed by Bayern's Champions League exit to Atletico Madrid this week.

Guardiola, who led Barcelona to 14 trophies in four years, has turned the Bundesliga into a one-horse race during his three seasons in charge while also reaching three consecutive Champions League semi-finals.

The 45-year-old arrived to succeed Jupp Heynckes, with a clear mandate of clinching the Champions League which Bayern had won as part of a treble-winning 2012/13 season a month before his arrival.

Guardiola quickly got to work, picking up where Heynckes had left off, with Bayern racing to the quickest ever Bundesliga title in his first season and winning the German Cup.

The Bavarians were similarly dominant in his second season, retaining their league title and again reaching the Champions League's last four.

Guardiola announced in February that he would be leaving for Manchester City in the close season, meaning he had one last chance to land Europe's top prize.

It was not to be, however, as Atletico became the third Spanish side to fell Bayern at the Champions League's semi-final stage, after they had exited to Real Madrid and Barcelona in the past two seasons.

Guardiola enjoyed unprecedented professional freedom at Bayern, a club dominated by strong characters including former president Uli Hoeness and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"I would give my life for these players," he said after their Champions League elimination. "I worked hard and I fought hard here. If the judgement on me depends on whether I won the Champions League title then I have failed.

"Then my time here was not perfect. I have to accept that but I have been very happy here and wanted to help players maintain their high level. I have no regrets."

GOETZE BENCHED

Guardiola was never afraid of sacrificing individual qualities in favour of the team, with attacking midfielder Mario Goetze the most prominent victim.

Having been signed in a big-money move from rivals Dortmund in 2013, Goetze enjoyed only brief spells as a starter under Guardiola, even after being elevated to German hero status following his winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final.

The 23-year-old's hints of a possible move always made headlines but Guardiola stuck by his guns and, based on results, was ultimately proven right.

He was equally successful with a string of transfers this season, bringing in wingers Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, who seamlessly replaced injured Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Chilean Arturo Vidal also stepped up and delivered at every key point this season, filling the void left by Bastian Schweinsteiger's departure to Manchester United.

Their stellar form was confirmed at the start of the season when they raced to 10 straight league wins, conceding four goals and scoring 33.

Brazilian Costa's speed combined with teenager Coman's creative play meant Bayern did not miss a beat and by the halfway mark were already eight points clear of Dortmund and 14 ahead of Hertha Berlin.

That consistency remained after the winter break and despite the absence of central defender Jerome Boateng with a muscle tear, they stayed firmly on track for a sparkling Guardiola finale even if the European title eluded them. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Mark Heinrich/Toby Davis)

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