Ernst Happel is, undisputedly, a coaching legend. A distinguished player in his time, the Austrian really began making waves once he took up a position on the touchlines. Following a playing career from 1942 to 1959, in which he achieved iconic status for Rapid Vienna and finished third with his country at the 1954 FIFA World Cup Switzerland™, his switch to the dugout proved an inspired move.
As coach of the Netherlands and Austria, and at big-name European clubs such as Hamburg, Sevilla and Feyenoord, success followed the former defender wherever he went. He led his teams to league titles in four different countries, won the Intercontinental Cup in 1970, claimed a FIFA World Cup runners-up spot in 1978, and collected a host of other honours too.
The Austrian, who passed away in 1992, also produced a constant stream of memorable quotes, witty and controversial by turns. In the latest instalment of our FIFA.com's monthly series, we’ve compiled a selection of these from the man named Austrian coach of the century, and whose memory is preserved by the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna.
"In my case, everything paid off, and I have no regrets."
Happel on his coaching career
"If you really examine your own opinions, you’ll normally come up with a better one."
Happel on formulating criticism
"In football, specialists are only useful up to a point. That worries me. You can field a dilettante anywhere. That pleases me."
Happel asked if he favoured certain types of player
"My first coaching instructor said to me: show no fear, Ernstl! On closer inspection, the occasional raging bull turns out to be no more than a little ox."
Happel on starting out in coaching
"Fear isn’t in my vocabulary."
Happel asked if he felt any fear prior to a big match
"How a club is run is what matters to me. The fewer board members, the better. If it’s 18, I’m just not interested."
Happel on his reasons for turning down a coaching job
"If you mark man-to-man, you’re sending out eleven donkeys."
Happel on tactics
"I don’t want football to be my hobby. It would leave far too little time for stamp collecting."
Happel asked if he had made his hobby into a career
"A good midfielder has eyes in the back of his head, that’s the secret in a nutshell."
Happel on what makes a good midfield player
"I’m no friend of the players. I work at a distance."
Happel on the player/coach relationship
"I’ve heard Max Merkel is putting me forward to coach Austria. I’ll only do it if I get Merkel as my kit man."
Happel jokingly describes his future plans
"You shouldn’t put up a wall around the team hotel, but you should always carry a couple of bricks."
Happel on the subject of controlling his players
"True love is always shattered by the minor sticking points."
Happel on problems at a club
"Bad luck wasn’t part of it. Bad luck is breaking your foot."
Happel after a shock cup defeat for his Hamburg team
"I’d rather win 5-4 than 1-0!"
Happel on his footballing philosophy
"Six years in Hamburg is enough! I don’t like it when my grandchildren keep talking about Grandpa Hamburg."
Happel on his reasons for leaving Hamburg
"A day without football is a day lost."
Happel on his love for the game
"If we want to succeed, we have to accept risks.“
Happel on his footballing philosophy
"You have to be born to this job. There’s no scientific learning method."
Happel on coaching
"If you want to talk, you should try being a vacuum cleaner salesman. I only want footballers."
Happel to his player Hansi Muller, who had asked for talks
"We went through so much, I had to give up. If you win too often, your discipline slips. We became too friendly. You suffer and cry together, you laugh and win together. And you can’t have that for too long."
Happel on his reasons for leaving Feyenoord despite a superb track record.
"People love a player with ideas, because at the end of the day, the crowd want to be entertained. And with football being only a game, it has to be enjoyable too."
Happel on the secret of football’s appeal