Jupp Heynckes: The red-faced German who lit up Bayern Munich
It's yet another year in this coeternal realm of football when the time-chiseled veterans say their goodbyes to their respective kingdoms and pass on the baton. Their legacy lives on but these withered wartime generals, in their own respective ways, fade into the enduring abyss that is oblivion.
Andres Iniesta leaving Barcelona, Gigi Buffon bidding adieu to the Old Lady, Fernando 'El Nino' Torres saying his fond farewell to his boyhood club and Arsene Wenger departing from the club we all thought was named after him at some point of time.
These footballing greats are moving on and glorifying anecdotes in their honour are pouring in from all corners of the world and deservingly so. But where are the odes for the protagonist of this very rambling that you are glancing through right now?
What about Jupp Heynckes, the man who is so prone to going tomato red in the heat of crunch fixtures, that this very common act of his earned him the nickname Osram? What about the man who returned from retirement and pulled Bayern from the early season blues in September 2017 to ensure that the Bavarian flag soars high yet again, undeterred?
For what it's worth, Heynckes had his share of the limelight back in 2013, when this Gladbach-born artisan of football led the red half of Munich to a historic treble, and retired from the sport, amidst tears, in what was supposed to be his last presser as the manager of Bayern Munich.
He has though, just done enough, to warrant one final tribute in his name. And it's never a bad thing to reminisce past glory, is it? So let's dive into the past crusades of the now silver-locked German who will now distance himself from the touchline role for good.
Jupp Heynckes, the player
What is the first name that will come to your mind if I ask you to mention a footballer who stockpiled silverware with both club and country while pulling several rabbits out of the hat as a manager as well?
I wouldn't damn you, even in the slightest, for thinking about Zinedine Zidane. He's a fine lad, the Frenchman. But let's just put it out there that Jupp Heynckes is the trendsetter you should be looking at in this case, for he did so before it was cool.
Heynckes kickstarted his professional footballing career as a 19-year-old centre-forward for his hometown club Borussia Moenchengladbach in 1964 under the tutelage of Hennes Weisweiler, whom he would go on to emulate in the future.
Gladbach were plying their trade in the second division of Germany during that year. Heynckes played prophet for the first time in his rookie year itself as he banged in 23 goals from 25 games to thrust his side to a Bundesliga promotion. And that is when the floodgates opened.
The striking sensation that he was, the nimble-footed Josef (his actual name), with that 1960s-esque wavy hairdo, left a lasting dent in the German top flight, netting a massive 220 goals in the Bundesliga by the end of his playing career. This record is bettered only by Gerd Mueller (365 goals) and Klaus Fischer (220 goals)
He was, surely, although not solely, a catalyst to the Die Borussan domination of German league football in the 1970s. The success though did come in his second affair with the club after a short stint with Hannover.
The fact that Heynckes led Gladbach to several firsts - most notably the Foals becoming the first side to retain the Bundesliga and the first German team to win the UEFA Cup (the Europa League equivalent) - embodies the greatness of the athlete who was just getting started.
By the dusk of his playing career, Jupp had racked up a plethora of accolades which included four Bundesliga titles, one UEFA Cup, one DfB-Pokal, one World Cup and one UEFA European Championship, the last two being with West Germany.
Don Jupp, the manager
The ninth child of 10 and born to a blacksmith - family planning surely wasn't the rage back then - Heynckes had ambitions of becoming an architect. Little did young Jupp know that he would be drawing paths to glory for several clubs in his elderly years from the dugout.
Heynckes was a true hometown boy as he started his managerial career with Borussia Moenchengladbach as well, firstly by being the apprentice to Udo Lattek, and then by succeeding him.
The early prowess that he showcased at Borussia Park impressed the upper echelon of Bayern Munich and he would enjoy his first stint with the club come the summer of 1987. By 1991, Heynckes would win back to back Bundesliga titles with the record champions and would also be the recipient of an unwelcomed boot from the club after a torrid start to his final season in charge of Die Roten.
To be fair to him, Uli Hoeness, the current president and the then general manager of Bayern did call Heynckes's sacking the biggest mistake of his life. "If only you'd realised that earlier, Uli!" is what Jupp (and many other Bayern fans) around the world would have thought after the executive made this declaration.
Remember the good 'ol Weinsweiler from a few sentences back? He and Lattek would become the first two managers of German origin to work in La Liga. Heynckes would brush up on their patrimony after getting appointed by Bilbao in the early 90s.
UEFA Cup qualifications for the Basque club and Tenerife were enough additions on his managerial CV as Real Madrid came calling in 1997 and Heynckes duly delivered, driving Los Blancos to their seventh UEFA Champions League title and their first one in 32 years.
"There are rules and standards that one has to stick to. Discipline is important, but still more important is that there is a consensus between the players." If you're pondering in which famous campaign did Heynckes blurt out these words, it was just before he took over the reins at Schalke in 2003.
Yes, you heard me correctly! Only Heynckes could emphasize on discipline and player chemistry before what was probably one of his worst tenures from the sidelines.
If you were one of those folks who lost sleep over his appointment after Carlo Ancelotti's fateful sacking, you shouldn't have. I don't intend to undermine the massive turn of fortunes that he has imposed while occupying the driver's seat for Bayern, a switcheroo which is the stuff of fanatical feature films (spare me for the alliteration). But here's the simple thing, he's done this before.
'Twas the shambolic season of 2008-09 when Bayern were down in the dust after a miserable season with Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm. The World Cup winner was removed as manager in April 2009 but the ever composed Heynckes took over the reins as a caretaker.
While the Bavarians initially feared losing out on UCL qualification, they ended up as the runners-up in the Bundesliga. Heynckes was only in charge for five games, but he did what he needed to do. And in the end, it all boils down to taking care of the needful.
A 2-year Leverkusen stint later, Heynckes returned to the Allianz Arena to test the veracity of the phrase 'third-time lucky'. The rest, as they say, is history. A year after the night of tears in Munich in 2012, when Europe was painted in Chelsea blue, Bayern completed their historic treble on a scintillating night in London.
What makes Heynckes special?
Heynckes isn't the kind of person you'd see drowning in a gazillion emotions on the sidelines. He's not the kind to throw a tantrum or two at press conferences that would make their way to media dossiers.
What he is, however, is a man preaching belligerent football but with just the right amount of conservatism. Heynckes has, for the majority of his managerial career, emanated the need of keeping the foot on the gas but keeping the handbrake ready just in case.
If you've still not deciphered the methodology in question here, it is playing tactical, but attacking football, with a hint of freedom to run ragged at the opposition when the opportunity presents itself, all while maintaining a disciplined back line, to fend off counter-attacks that the rivals may muster.
It is the same modus operandi which helped Bayern earn a narrow win over Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League in 2012. It is the same approach which helped Bayern thrash Barcelona 7-0 in 2013.
Franck Ribery very recently spoke about how well Heynckes has used the rest of the squad in general and him in particular. The 73-year-old brings brilliant man-management and efficient squad rotation to the table.
Corentin Tolisso, Bayern's record signing, looked lost under Ancelotti. But the French midfielder found a rejuvenated self, even in the limited playing time that he was awarded, and will now be sitting in that plane to Russia. For the world beater that he is today, even Toni Kroos honed his skills under Heynckes.
Let us not forget the fact that Heynckes won a treble with Dante at the heart of his back line whose career has only fallen in a downward spiral ever since 2013. David Alaba and Jerome Boateng were still coming of age back then.
Come to think of it, Heynckes is all about getting the basics right. He's all about discipline. He's about players meshing up well with each other. He's about those nifty overlaps. He's about those long balls to switch the play.
He's all about the conjugation of several simple things into one impactful playing procedure. There's no need for the cute tricks and the flashy feints. And that is exactly what sets Heynckes apart.
Fourth time's a charm
Have I spoken enough about the 73-year-old's contribution to Bayern in what was an atrocious beginning to things at the Allianz Arena this term? Maybe I shouldn't, for the Bavarians only ended up winning the Bundesliga this season, after their future manager Niko Kovac's side humbled Die Roten in a controversial DfB Pokal final at the Olympiastadion last night.
Bayern are used to winning the Bundesliga anyway, aren't they? But that was the very plight that they faced in September last year! A competition that Bayern had so outrightly dominated since the treble season was thrown into complete disarray with Borussia Dortmund having every chance of running away after being the early pacesetters.
And then there was that night in Paris, with the resounding 0-3 loss for the five-time UCL winners. Ancelotti had lost the faith of his players and finally the board, as he received the axe.
When Jupp Heynckes arrived at Saebener Strasse, he had the backing of the executives. But he needed to quickly up the ante in the thick of things while boosting the morale of a rather wanting Bayern roster. And he did just that.
From a 5-point deficit to a 21-point lead in March, a distressful start was converted into a commanding campaign. Bayern were also in the quest for a treble. But then again, Heynckes helped the players but the players did not help themselves. The end result? Botched chances and a sorry ending to a fairytale-like spin-off.
It's time for the dust to settle and for Heynckes to move on as the curtains fall on this season; but not without thanking him for what he's given to the club.
Danke für alles Jupp. Thank you for everything!