Affectionately known in his native Germany as the 'Kind der Bundesliga' (The Bundesliga Kid), the septuagenarian Otto Rehhagel has been defying the passage of time for many years now.
During his eventful playing and coaching career in the German top flight, the veteran Greece coach racked up all manner of records, some of them more glorious than others. Rehhagel has been involved in the record number of Bundesliga wins, draws and defeats, and the teams he has coached have scored and conceded more goals than those of any of his contemporaries.
Curious stats aside, however, Otto Rehhagel is one of the most successful German coaches of all time. His long association with the game started way back in the 1950s. Over the next two decades he made over 200 Bundesliga appearances, building up a reputation as a player with an uncompromising streak, a virtue he has instilled in his Greece side.
A top-flight coach for fully 25 years, he took the helm at all the country’s leading club sides, including Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund, Kaiserlautern and Bayern Munich. Then, in 2001, he accepted the Greek FA’s invitation to become their national coach.
His nine-year association with the country has brought many landmark achievements. Having only qualified for the FIFA World Cup™ finals on one previous occasion, a forgettable first-round exit at USA 1994, Greece suddenly began to work miracles under Rehhagel.
It was the German who masterminded their stunning triumph at UEFA EURO 2004, which was achieved with a pragmatic style of football short on attacking frills. As a reward, he became the first foreigner to be named Greek of the Year, and when the German FA subsequently came in with an offer to take charge of the national side, he eventually turned it down.
Though they failed to reach Germany 2006 and came up short in their defence of their European crown in 2008, Rehhagel and his charges proved their durability by winning a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. In the meantime, he further cemented his reputation by taking Greece to their highest ever position in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking: eighth in July 2008.
Famed for his motivational skills, Rehhagel has created a club atmosphere in the Greek dressing room and has not been afraid to bring in new players to replace some of the veterans of their glorious EURO 2004 campaign. And though Greece continue to lack genuine stars, the team spirit and solidity Rehhagel has forged makes them formidable opponents.
The first foreign coach ever to lift the European Championship trophy, it would be no surprise to see the durable German inspire another impressive performance from his underrated side in South Africa.