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Having guided Bayern Munich to the treble in 2013, Brendon Netto discusses why Heynckes' efforts must be appreciated.

 Brendon Netto
 COMMENT | Germany
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The year 2013 will always be fondly remembered at Bayern Munich as one of perfection. The team won five trophies over a phenomenal twelve months for the club and while Pep Guardiola secured the Club World Cup and UEFA Sup Cup, it was his predecessor Jupp Heynckes who did the heavy lifting earlier in the year as manager of the German powerhouse.

The veteran tactician led Bayern to success in the Bundesliga, German Cup and most importantly, the Champions League. While winning the treble was widely recognized and lauded, perhaps the enormity and difficulty of the task from a managerial perspective wasn’t full appreciated. With the phenomenal players at his disposal, Heynckes’ feat may seem relatively manageable but in fact, he had a lot to overcome.

Demanding summer for international stars

 

There’s always a strong contingent of Bayern Munich players that feature in the German national team while the foreigners in their squad are normally accomplished internationals with their respective countries as well. What this translates into is a strenuous summer for most of Bayern’s first team every two years, when the World Cup and European Championships come around.

In recent years, Bayern’s form has suffered over the course of the season following a major international tournament. Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup and made it to the semi-finals where they were eliminated by Italy but still secured third place by beating Portugal.

Even though the likes of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Mats Hummels impressed during the competition, they were unable to help Bayern defend their Bundesliga title and eventually finished fourth in the league. They only made it to the third round of the German Cup and were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Germany were then outstanding in the 2008 European Championships and were only undone by Spain in the finals. Once again, several Bayern players had impressed but were destined to go trophyless once more with the club. They finished second in the league and were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the German Cup and Champions League.

Once again, Germany secured third place in the World Cup in 2010 after losing 1-0 to Spain in the semi-finals. In the subsequent season, Bayern finished third in the league and were knocked out in the semi-finals of the German Cup and Round of 16 stage in the Champions League.

Following Euro 2012 however, after Germany were eliminated in the semi-final against Italy, Jupp Heynckes was the man who ensured that his players would remain fresh and focused. Credit must be allocated to the fitness coaches and the rest of the medical team at the club but ultimately it's the manager makes the team selection.

Yes, Heynckes had a fantastic squad to work with but he rotated key players precisely over the course of the season and was able to keep the entire squad happy which is no mean feat. The fact that they didn’t just avoid another trophyless campaign after an international tournament but instead went on to win the treble speaks volumes of his managerial skills.

 

Pep Guardiola lurking

 

Pep Guardiola was announced as the successor to Heynckes in January after it was revealed that the latter had informed the Bayern board of his decision to retire at the end of the season. Heynckes had made his displeasure public over the timing of the Guardiola as it hadn't helped his side with all the frenzy around it.

Bayern were on the cusp of greatness having been in strong form and competing on all fronts but Heynckes had to guide his troops to glory with the Spanish tactician lurking in the distance, not unlike the Grim Reaper, as he watched the squad he was to inherit.

The decision to announce Guardiola as the next Bayern manager while the current one still resided was perhaps distasteful and lacked the showing of respect that Heynckes warranted.

Heynckes showed remarkable levels of experience, composure and professionalism by keeping his team focused and winning it all when a lesser manager may have lost his bearings.

 

Pressure to succeed

 

Bayern Munich pride themselves on their tag as alpha dogs in the Bundesliga and it was that pride that was severely wounded when Jurgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund won back-to-back league titles. At the start of the 2012-13 campaign, Heynckes was under intense pressure to reclaim the Bundesliga.

The fans had grown tired of Dortmund’s growing strength and feared being dethroned as the most dominant team in the league. Klopp’s troops had bettered Bayern in the domestic cup as well. The importance of arresting Dortmund’s rise to power couldn’t have been stressed enough. Eventually, Heynckes’ side sent records tumbling as they coasted to the league title with a 25-point cushion to boast.

Meanwhile, the Champions League has always been of utmost importance at the club and they were frustrated in recent years having lost in the 2010 and 2012 finals to Inter Milan and Chelsea respectively. The manner of defeat against the English outfit in particular was difficult to swallow as they dominated the game but missed several chances and lost on penalties.

To overcome that heartbreak and rally his troops to bulldoze their way through to the trophy in the following year would have been near impossible for Heynckes but he pulled it off. It’s further credit to his ability as a tactician that he navigated his side through stern tests, the likes of which they passed with flying colours.

They put away Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona in the knock-out stages to get to the finals where they defeated their fierce rivals Dortmund. The 7-0 thumping of Barcelona on aggregate would have been particularly gratifying as it seemed to mark the end of the stranglehold the Catalans had on the European circuit. In addition to all this, Bayern also won the German Cup to ensure the completion of that magical treble and thereby surpass the lofty expectations at the start of the season.


Does Heynckes deserve to be Coach of the Year? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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