Jupp Heynckes reported to be on his way back to Bernabeu
A Champions League win followed by German cup success would clinch a treble in coach’s last season at Munich
With José Mourinho safely on his way but his intended successor Carlo Ancelotti struggling to secure his release from Paris St Germain, Real Madrid were reported yesterday to be considering an approach to Jupp Heynckes about a return to the Bernabeu this summer.
And the chance to go back to the club that sacked him after just one year, and almost immediately after he had guided them to their first European Cup in 32 years, might be welcomed by a man who always seems to have at least one more point to prove.
Despite having led Bayern Munich to the verge of their first ever treble this season, Heynckes is being forced out to make way for Pep Guardiola; a move conceived last year when the club finished as runners up in the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League and announced, with little regard for the 68-year-old’s feelings in January.
By then, the club was well on the way to ending Borussia Dortmund’s two-year domestic reign and was shaping up well on the European stage too.
Hard act to follow
Now, if Jürgen Klopp’s side can be overcome at Wembley tomorrow evening, Bayern will be a German cup final victory over Stuttgart away from their treble and Heynckes will look a remarkably hard act to follow, even for Guardiola.
The consistency required to achieve this remarkable level of success is easy to explain, says the former international striker who was a member of the team that won the European Championship in 1972 and the squad that captured the World Cup two years later.
“I started to rotate the team and make good use of the squad of players at our disposal and so the players have known that they are needed,” said Heynckes.
“I think that my coaching staff and I managed to do that well with the players, and I was able to change and rotate while the team was able to handle it,” he added.
The inclination to claim his share of the credit for the team’s success is evident in several recent interviews and seems to reflect a view that he has not received enough credit.
Things have become a little more unseemly at times, however, with the coach claiming that nobody in the club’s higher echelons even knew who the Spanish defender Javi Martinez was when he wanted to buy him last summer for €37 million.
Matthias Sammer, brought in above him as Sporting Director around then, had a swipe back this week, suggesting that the defeat by Chelsea in last year’s Champions League final had been contributed to by Heynckes’s mistakes: “Maybe one or two substitutions weren’t necessary,” he observed.
The team’s achievements under the veteran coach this season have been utterly beyond dispute, however. They clinched the German title with 10 more points than the record-breaking 81 Dortmund managed last season; they have the biggest winning margin, the best ever goal difference and the most wins.
Martinez, played mainly in midfield, has been a success despite the size of the fee; Dante, a Brazilian centre-half, has also been something of a triumph given that just €4.7 million was paid to Heynckes’ former club Borussia Monchengladbach for him.
Young players have been introduced, meanwhile, more experienced ones rejuvenated and the collective playing style evolved considerably from when Louis van Gaal was in charge.
If all this became clear too late to keep him at Bayern then it has at least made him highly marketable abroad again after his status had slipped during unsuccessful stints at Benfica, Athletic Bilbao, Dortmund’s bitter rivals Schalke 04 and then back at Borussia Monchengladbach, where he spent most of a hugely successful playing career and where he got his first chance to coach.
More than once clashes with players proved to be his undoing as they had during his single season at Real in the late 1990s, when attempts to restore discipline off the pitch caused the club’s biggest stars to complain and their president, Lorenzo Sanz, to back them by sacking Heynckes, ostensibly on the basis of a fourth-place finish in the league.
Now, it seems, he might get his chance to return just as he did twice with Bayern, where he had originally won consecutive league two league titles back in 1989 and 1990.
As the manoeuvring continues, the Spaniards appear to be pressing ahead with their summer shopping regardless, with moves for Napoli’s Edinson Cavani and Malaga’s rising midfield star Isco apparently under way.
Heynckes might, it seems, relish the challenge but eclipsing Barca with Real may prove somewhat tougher than restoring the top-dog status of his current club, who spend twice as much on their players as their rivals Dortmund.
However shabbily he has been treated, in short, he is unlikely to ever have the the opportunity to go out on this sort of high again.