It is often said that you should aim to bow out at the top. However, while most never get the opportunity, others find it impossible to call it a day at the pinnacle of their careers.
Jupp Heynckes is one of the few to have managed it, albeit not entirely of his own accord given that he has known since January he will be succeeded as head coach of Bundesliga champions Bayern München by Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Yet Don Jupp was not going to allow that to stop him from writing a fresh chapter in Bayern’s history during his final few months in charge. Indeed, the experienced trainer has left his Spanish successor with a gargantuan act to follow by becoming the first ever coach in German football to lead his side to a Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League treble.
A unique career
On Tuesday, 4 June, three days after collecting the final trophy of his triple haul with victory in the DFB Cup final in Berlin, the former striker announced that he would be taking a year’s hiatus from the game – in spite of various high-profile offers. “I’m going to have a break,” explained the 68-year-old. “I won’t be taking on any new roles as of 1 July. I’m going to take a step back and regenerate.”
Heynckes has certainly earned a holiday, having led Bayern to a record-breaking 23rd German title and bequeathing Guardiola “a top-class team, perhaps the best in the world”. Praise has poured in from players, coaches and colleagues alike. “His work has been exemplary and he’s broken new ground,” said Bayern president and long-time friend Uli Hoeness. “Some of the players followed him blindly.”
Even Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp “couldn’t begrudge Jupp” the victory after his side were beaten by Bayern in the Champions League final, saying: “He’s a great professional and a great person.” Bayern midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger also paid tribute, saying: “The coach was the biggest factor in our success.”
Germany supremo Joachim Low offered his congratulations, while DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach was “especially pleased that my old friend Jupp Heynckes was able to crown a unique coaching career with this triumph”.
Three attempts, three finals
By winning this season’s Champions League, Heynckes joined an elite group of just four coaches to have won the competition with two different clubs along with Ernst Happel (1970 with Feyenoord, 1983 with Hamburg), Ottmar Hitzfeld (1997 with Dortmund and 2001 with Bayern) and Jose Mourinho (2004 with Porto and 2010 with Inter Milan). “To win the Champions League for a second time or even to have been in three finals and won two of them is a bit special,” he proudly surmised.
Precisely one week after claiming European club football’s biggest prize, Heynckes capped a remarkable campaign with a 3-2 victory over Stuttgart in the final of the DFB Cup. A fitting conclusion to an illustrious career both on and off the field.
As a player, Heynckes was, among others, a world and European champion with Germany, a UEFA Cup winner and three-time Bundesliga champion, following it up with four national titles and two Champions Leagues as a coach.
Curiously, he was made to take his leave after winning the latter in 1998 with Real Madrid, just one stop on a coaching journey which not only took in Borussia Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern Munich in Germany, but also various other clubs abroad, including Benfica and Athletic Bilbao, all of whom benefitted from his meticulous, yet always personable approach.
Now, after 196 wins in 302 competitive matches and three Bundesliga titles, a DFB Cup and Champions League glory, Jupp Heynckes’ three-part tenure at Bayern has finally come to an end. Whether his career in football has come to a definitive close remains to be seen, but given his undoubted energy, success and experience, this likeable tactician will have no shortage of potential suitors should he ever decide to return to the game.