Jupp Heynckes’s last Bundesliga match was more emotional than anyone predicted, but if the legendary Bayern Munich coach wants to end his career with the high of a Champions League victory he’ll need to stop a poor run of form in big games against Borussia Dortmund.
The day before Alex Ferguson’s 1,500th and last match at Manchester United ended in a bizarre 5-5 draw at West Brom, another veteran coach saw his Bayern team win a crazy seven-goal thriller against the club closest to his heart, Borussia Moenchengladbach. United blew a 3-0 lead but Bayern came from 3-1 down to win 4-3.
Heynckes, 68, was a legend as both player and coach at Moenchengladbach, the town of his birth, so it was fitting that his 1,011th Bundesliga match as player and coach was at the Borussia Stadium. With nothing at stake, it all got rather sentimental on Saturday.
Heynckes, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola next season, normally spends the night before matches putting final touches to tactics, but on this occasion had a barbecue with stars of the 1970s Gladbach team. Before and during the match, Moenchengladbach and Bayern Munich fans alike were on their feet, cheering Heynckes's name. During the post-match press conference, screened live in the stadium, Heynckes broke down in tears.
"This is where I started my career as a player, as a coach," Heynckes said in between sobs. ''They showed me that this is my home."
Heynckes even got an ovation from journalists, who in recent years have poked fun at his stiff interview style and tendency to turn red at big points in matches.
There could not have been a better farewell season, with Bayern racking up the most number of points in Bundesliga history (91) and winning by the biggest margin ever (25).
It’s a season that caps a stunning career. Heynckes is one of only three men to have participated in more than 1,000 Bundesliga matches. As a player he netted 220 goals in 369 matches (only Gerd Mueller and Klaus Fischer scored more), winning four Bundesliga titles and just missing out on the European Cup, which he later won as a coach with Real Madrid.
For those looking to compare Heynckes with Ferguson, Heynckes has won 598 matches out of 1,172 (51 per cent), Ferguson 1,253 out of 2,155 in all (58 per cent) and 895 of 1,500 matches for Manchester United (60 per cent). Clearly, there's little these two men do not know about the modern game.
Heynckes has received offers to coach abroad, but retirement seems likely after the German Cup final. "I am getting a bit long in the tooth and clubs want a new generation. You can't do that with a 68-year old," he said.
Indeed, the last day of the Bundesliga season was a great one for Germany's young coaches. Jens Keller, 42, saw his Schalke side clinch the fourth and final Champions League spot, 38-year old Markus Weinzierl completed the mother of all Houdini acts by guiding Augsburg to safety after a 3-1 victory versus Furth, while 43-year-old Markus Gisdol steered seemingly-doomed Hoffenheim into the play-offs with a shock 2-1 win at Dortmund.
None of those three coaches were even born when Heynckes made his debut for West Germany. But the man who symbolises more than any other the new generation of coaches will be Heynckes’s opposite number in the Champions League final at Wembley.
Juergen Klopp is everything that Heynckes is not: young, media savvy and armed with a toothy smile that can disarm the most sceptical journalist. And Dortmund's 45-year-old coach has a fabulous record against Bayern, the club that rejected the chance to hire him in 2008: Dortmund are the only team to have denied Bayern a Bundesliga win in 2012-13, drawing 1-1 twice this season. The yellow-blacks have won four and drawn two of their last six league matches.
While it's true Bayern prevailed in this season’s German Cup quarters, that match came just before a big Dortmund clash in the Champions League, which has very much been Klopp’s focus this season. In 2011-12, Klopp's Dortmund humiliated Bayern 5-2 in the German Cup final and completed a league double with two 1-0 wins.
In both those games, Dortmund's midfield stifled service to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Their full-backs marauded down the flanks and Dortmund’s passing was too swift and elaborate for Bayern. Most tellingly of all, Dortmund played with no fear on each occasion: Klopp's men will not feel they are underdogs when they take to the Wembley pitch on Saturday night.
Mario Goetze scored the winner in the first match, Robert Lewandowski the second: the former has already been poached by Bayern and the latter looks likely to follow him to Bavaria.
While, like the rest of Germany, Klopp is full of admiration for Heynckes, there is no love lost between Dortmund’s coach and Bayern.
Klopp admits that he was hardly able to speak after being told that emerging super star Goetze was heading to Bavaria at the end of the season. Recently comparing the Bavarians to a James Bond villain, Klopp said: "We are not a supermarket but they want our players because they know we cannot pay them the same money.''
If Klopp gets his tactics right again at Wembley, Bayern will become the first team to ever lose three European Cup finals in four seasons. But if Heynckes is the victor, he will cap his career by becoming only the fourth coach in history to win the trophy with two different clubs.
Andreas Evagora, deputy head Eurosport 2