Sound advice for those who like to place bets is to ‘quit while you’re ahead’. George Costanza adapted it in Seinfeld, walking out of a room whenever he had peaked.
Jupp Heynckes had never planned it that way but, when you leave a football club having just landed the treble, the only way you can go is downhill.
That was what happened in May 2013, when the experienced tactician landed the European Cup – with the sweetest of victories over Borussia Dortmund – whilst also regaining both the Bundesliga title and the DFB Pokal.
“After everything that's happened over the past two years, I'm ready for some peace and quiet,” Heynckes told an interview with Der Spiegel in June 2013.
“After this string of successes, I could transfer to just about any club in Europe. I have a problem with the finality of saying 'never'. But I can assure you that I have no intention of coaching again. I had a worthy ending.”
At the end of a perfect season, that was apparently that.
Once more into the breach
Four years on, and with Heynckes now 72, nothing had changed. However, a less than assured start to the season saw Carlo Ancelotti dismissed as boss of the Bavarian club and, with no long-term replacement immediately available, Heynckes stepped into the breach.
Whilst results on the pitch were far from catastrophic, players were reportedly deeply unhappy with the Italian and his coaching methods. The interim boss was meant to come in and steady the ship, ease the unrest and lead them to further domestic glory.
A club of Bayern’s stature always wants to win everything, but there was an also an element of realism – since their 2013 European crown, the club – under the guidance of Pep Guardiola and then Heynckes – had fallen short on the European stage.
Since his appointment, the German boss has guided the Bavarians to 30 victories in his 33 matches at the helm. He has won all seven of the club’s Champions League fixtures; including a 3-1 group stage victory over Paris Saint-Germain, an 8-1 aggregate thumping of Besiktas and a 2-1 quarter final victory at Sevilla.
On the way
Die Bayern are on their way to the semifinals of the competition and former boss Louis Van Gaal has gone on record as believing they will lift the trophy next month.
At this stage of the competition, every club is elite. However, this is a Bayern side who can turn on the style but also grind out results when not playing at their best, such as in Spain on Tuesday night.
It is true that this is an ageing side but it is not one who are past their peak – Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery are two of Europe’s most dangerous wide-men while few strikers offer such a consistent killer instinct as Robert Lewandowski.
Thiago Alcantara controls the game from midfield, Javi Martinez is the ideal defensive shield while Thomas Muller and James Rodriguez offer direct, and inventive, attacking threats
Many avid Bundesliga fans believe the central defensive partnership of Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels is the finest in world football with a fine supporting cast to boot.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s long-term absence has not proved as problematic as once feared due to Sven Ulreich’s competent deputising.
The final chance
Heynckes has already won Europe’s most-prized trophy on two occasions – having also guided Real Madrid to the 1998 title – and has players at his disposal who not only have the talent but also the hunger.
They know this could be their best – and potentially final – big chance of tasting European glory again.
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