By Harsh Shah
Munich is definitely the happiness capital of Europe at the moment, with respect to football at least! With their sweetheart club Bayern Munich having the most perfect season, the Bavarian capital must be rocking in celebration, to say the least. Defeating domestic foes Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League final last evening at Wembley, Bayern's revenge over the world of football on the whole was complete, having been on the wrong end of some heartbreaking results this time, last season. If the cake of the credit were to go to one man for mapping Die Roten's redemption route, it would definitely have to be their manager Josef 'Jupp' Heynckes.
Picture this: The Bundesliga conceded to Dortmund with an 8-point margin. The DFB-Pokal (German Cup) final ending in a resounding 5-2 humiliation at the hands of the same team that had outclassed them in the league. The Champions League trophy whisked away painstakingly from them on penalties by a stubborn Chelsea side in their own backyard, the Allianz Arena. A season ending on this note spelled heartbreak, regret and disappointment all over. A melancholic atmosphere had loomed over Germany's so called efficient model, the tag of 'second best' ringing in the ears of players, management, the top brass as well as the distraught fans. Adding to the rot was the increasingly infamous brand of 'chokers' that was being handed out to them by the media, after having lost their second Champions League final in the past 3 years at that stage. Everything was going wrong for them when it mattered most.
So what did Bayern do to overcome the ghosts of past season? They did what they did best, i.e get down to the training ground and start with a clean slate. And as mentioned afore, Heynckes had a major hand in masterminding the revival. This is where Bayern's German roots were most prominent. From the outset, one could see that they were hell bent on doing everything right this time out, with steely determination and a no-nonsense approach central to their approach.
|"Osram" Jupp | One of football's most underrated geniuses|
Heynckes' first statement of intent for the season came when he signed on Claudio Pizarro, Dante, Mario Mandzukic and Javi Martinez early on in the transfer window. With the quartet joining Xherdan Shaqiri whose deal was finalised on a Bosman from FC Basel in the middle of the 2011-12 season, Bayern looked revitalised and more potent from the start. True, Bayern's technical and scouting staff would have had a major say in finalising these players who came in, but at the end of the day it was the former Borussia Monchengladbach trainer who would approve the transfer.
In general opinion, the 5 transfers were absolute peaches on Jupp's part. Mandzukic proved to be a more hard-working and persistent compatriot to the receding Mario Gomez. Xherdan Shaqiri provided able cover to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the wings, making the case for the some holistic rotation. Dante was absolutely indispensible for the Bavarian giants in the latter half of the season because of Holger Badstuber's injury on the eve of the winter break. Javi Martinez arguably was the last piece in Bayern's midfield jigsaw puzzle, complimenting the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos all season, giving them the freedom to roam. And lastly, Pizarro turned out to be a total revelation given his age, playing the role of super-goal-scoring-sub in the Bundesliga as well as Champions League. While everything clicked for the new recruits, one must give ample kudos to Heynckes for keeping this 'Hollywood' cast happy all season with astute management and rotation.
|Guardiola Who? | Heynckes went on with business as usual, unperturbed by the announcement of Pep's arrival in January|
It is expected of even the biggest clubs and institutions to buckle under the weight of expectation and pressure of redemption. But Bayern did anything but that. Beginning their voyage with a fitting 2-1 win over Dortmund in the DFB Super Cup, the Bavarians steamrolled almost every opposition that came their way in all competitions. With some rare yet customary blips in the Bundesliga and Champions League group stages, Bayern went into the winter break on top of the league. The same trend followed in the Champions League group phase, with Bayern finishing above Valencia on goal difference. The first half of the season was absolutely spot on with Heynckes's plan working seamlessly.
Then came the winter break. Followed by which was the announcement that Pep Guardiola would take over the reins from Heynckes at the end of the season. Now critics viewed this as a development that might go on to derail Bayern's season. This was the period when Heycnkes made his differences with the people upstairs clear, slamming the timing of making Guardiola's arrival public.
The man who is nicknamed 'Osram' after the German lighting manufacturer for his tendency to redden up like a bulb in heady situations, was at his ferocious worst at that juncture in time. But like on countless occasions in the past, Heynckes' professionalism was at its timely best, as he saw to it that his side went on with business as usual on the pitch, living in the present rather than think about what next season might be like. Massive appreciation to Herr Jupp for the way he conducted himself and his side at that point.
|Transfer Guru | Heynckes' signings this season were apt and fit into the system with ease|
The result come April 6th was that Bayern had successfully wrestled the Bundesliga title back from Dortmund with 5 games to spare. They ended up doing it in style, by notching up 91 points from the regulation 34 games, a record total. It was one down, three to go at that stage. With that outcome, they went into the Champions League quarter-final showdown against Juventus gung-ho. Having been handed a scare by Arsenal in the previous round, Bayern went in with their shields, and came out 4-0 winners on aggregate. This was not it, they went on to beat Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semis, as the result went on to rubber stamp the power-shift from Spain to Germany in European football, with Heynckes right in the center of it all as the genius who had scripted Bayern's comeback trail.
Employing approaches that mirrored their oppositions in Juventus and Barcelona, Heynckes in a way gave these two superpowers a taste of their own medicines. He overcame these two technically sound outfits with a ploy of his own, outclassing them by winning the key battles all over the pitch. There was no answer to Bayern's strongarming tactics as they made a date with their perpetual foes Borussia Dortmund in the final of Europe's elite competition.
This proved to be a completely different ballgame with the domestic flavour adding a new spice to the epic finale. Bayern rode their luck and weathered the Ruhr storm provided by Jurgen Klopp's men. One got the feeling that Jupp had done as much as he could have this season, with fate left to decide this one for Bayern after years of choking and misery in the final stages. In the end, it proved to be third time lucky for the Bavarians, with Arjen Robben clinching it in the 89th minute following goals from Mario Mandzukic and Ilkay Gundogan.
|Heynckes' tactical acumen and insatiable hunger for success was instrumental in wrestling back the Bundesliga and winning the Champions League, at long last!|
Here are the words, right from the horse's mouth as Heynckes revealed after lifting his second Champions League title, his first coming with Real Madrid way back in 1998. "Since one year ago, we improved and improved. We modified so many details. I was stricter and more consequent with the details. I have to say, the players followed and there is harmony. You have to keep the players happy. Nobody wants to sit on the bench. Everyone wants to play", he recounted.
Thus in many ways this is Jupp Heynckes' best season as a player or a manager. Having already won numerous accolades in a glittering career, this season's triumphs and achievements have a feeling of satisfaction and relief which he might not have experienced before. He is among the rare breed of managers who had almost everything snatched away from him rather cruelly, which only inspired him and made him hungrier to turn it around and redeem himself this time out, with the treble almost in sight with Stuttgart left to topple at Olympiastadion in the Cup final on June 1. He is undoubtedly a class apart.
Lastly, this is what the legend who has been managing since for the last 34 years had to say on his future: "The decision on what I will do after the cup match (against Stuttgart next Saturday) was already taken last June? Retire? No, you will learn about all that only after the cup final!"
Tribute to this legend's insatiable hunger for the game. To football's true great, 'Danke Jupp'!
Where do you think is Jupp headed after this Bayern adventure? Respond in the comments section below or get in touch with the writer @Harsh8Shah
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