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Jupp Heynckes and Berti Vogts or Marcus Thuram and Matthias Ginter (l.-r.)? The current Borusia Mönchengladbach squad are looking to emulate the success of their 1970s predecessors. - © 2019 DFL
Jupp Heynckes and Berti Vogts or Marcus Thuram and Matthias Ginter (l.-r.)? The current Borusia Mönchengladbach squad are looking to emulate the success of their 1970s predecessors. - © 2019 DFL

How do today’s Borussia Mönchengladbach compare to their 1970s heyday?


Bundesliga league leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach have an opportunity to end Bayern Munich's seven-year reign at the summit of German football, just as their predecessors of the 1970s traded title-for-title with the Bavarian giants.

'Die Fohlen-Elf' that featured icons such as Jupp Heynckes and Günter Netzer became Germany's darlings as they wowed as much as they won with their dashing style of football.

Marco Rose's current crop have a long way to go before they can celebrate the club's sixth Bundesliga crown, but if they do take the title, they'll join an elite group of men to have taken the small North Rhine-Westphalia town to the top of the domestic game.

bundesliga.com looks at how some of the 2019/20 squad match up to the side that knocked the great Bayern side of the 70s off their perch time and again.

Marcus Thuram vs. Jupp Heynckes

Heynckes is one of only eight coaches — along with the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson — to have completed the treble of league title, major domestic cup and UEFA Champions League. But he could play too. Boy oh boy could he play!

A true local hero, Heynckes — barring a three-year spell in Hannover — played for his hometown club between 1965 to 1978. He was the sharp edge of the side that went toe-to-toe with Bayern for a decade, and — like goalkeeper Wolfgang Kleff — had one of the Bavarians' all-time greats to compete with both domestically and internationally: Gerd Müller.

Watch: Heynckes' top 5 career moments

The pair shared the Torjägerkanone as the Bundesliga's top scorer with 30 each in 1974 when Bayern took the league title; Heynckes and Gladbach claimed both the following campaign. Without Müller, Heynckes would have won far more than the 39 caps he did, and featured more heavily than just the two games he played as Germany won European and world titles back-to-back in '72 and '74.

At 22 and having only just broken into France's U21 team, Thuram's global pedigree lags behind that of his European and world champion father, Lilian. He is, of course, also in the infancy of his Gladbach career, and while it may take a yoga master to stretch the Italian-born Frenchman into becoming the new Heynckes, Thuram has certainly made a compelling opening argument.

Given he is not the out-and-out goalscorer Heynckes was, he looks unlikely to surpass to Don Jupp's Gladbach club record of 195 Bundesliga strikes — the third-most ever league-wide — at a gobsmacking ratio of 0.68 goals per game, but he has made a significant contribution to the current team's success.

Watch: Thuram, Gladbach's difference maker

With six goals and five assists in just 13 top-flight appearances since arriving at Borussia-Park in the summer, Thuram has been involved in a Gladbach goal every 1.2 league games so far. If he keeps that up for the duration of his time in a Foals shirt, he will be a club legend.

Verdict: It's one of the all-time greats of German football vs. a youngster who could become one. Heynckes… for now?

Lars Stindl vs. Günter Netzer

Like Heynckes, Netzer was born in München Gladbach, the name of Mönchengladbach before it was changed to avoid confusion with the Bavarian capital München (Munich to you and me), and joined his hometown club as a dashing, blonde-haired 19-year-old. His film star good looks and love of life in the fast lane meant he stood out from his teammates. "The only true star there was at the time was called Günter Netzer," Berti Vogts said. "The things he got up to… Rod Stewart had nothing on him."

But while Netzer played hard off the pitch, he played with just as much gusto on it. With the iconic number 10 on this back, he was the heartbeat of the side that won the club's first league title in 1969/70 and then became the first team in Bundesliga history to defend the crown the following year.

He took responsibility for his teammates in other ways, and was elected team spokesman to "explain unpleasant things to the coach or the club". When his mentor, Hennes Weisweiler, benched him for his final Gladbach game — the 1972/73 DFB Cup final — Netzer impudently brought himself on and scored the winning goal three minutes later. Real Madrid bought him after that as they sought to compete with Barcelona, who had just signed Johan Cruyff. That's how good Netzer was.

The original footballing superstar, Günter Netzer made waves both on and off the pitch during his playing days. - imago/WEREK

When fit, Stindl wears the Gladbach captain's armband and has done since Granit Xhaka's 2016 departure, which speaks volumes about his influence on his teammates and the standing he has at the club. He does not have the rock-star side to his personality that Netzer had — can any modern footballer afford that? — but does possess a strong sense of responsibility, even at his own expense.

While at Hannover, he pointed out to the DFB they had failed to register one of his yellow cards; it was an act which cost him a one-game ban as it took him to five cautions for the season, but also earned him fair-play plaudits. He can also do it on the pitch, linking play as comfortably as he can provide a scalpel-like precision in front of goal when his team needs it.

"Lars is growing more and more into being a great captain," Dieter Hecking, then-Gladbach boss, said after seeing Stindl score a hat-trick to turn a Europa League tie against Fiorentina the Foals' way in February 2017.

Watch: Stindl's top 5 Bundesliga goals

"Lars is a little calmer, but he leads the team in his calm, level-headed way and then explodes on the pitch. You can't wish for better as a coach."

Verdict: Stindl is — in many ways — Netzer's equal in how he can galvanise the side, but the latter is quite simply a unique icon of German football.

Matthias Ginter vs. Berti Vogts

Vogts's playing career — like that of Heynckes — has been overshadowed by his more recent coaching jobs with Scotland, Nigeria and Azerbaijan, but the tigerish ex-full-back was one of the foremost exponents of the defensive art.

A one-club man, Vogts made all 419 of his club record Bundesliga appearances for Gladbach between 1965 and 1979, and featured in all of their five title wins to date. He might have played more but for a leg fracture in the 1978/79 DFB Cup final that ended his career.

Unlike Heynckes and Netzer, who had Wolfgang Overath in his way, Vogts did get significant international recognition, and played nearly 100 times for his country, winning the 1972 Euros and then the World Cup two years later alongside many of the Bayern greats his club had titanic clashes with over the decade.

Vogts was nicknamed 'The Terrier' — a billing that needs no further description to give a vivid picture of his playing style; if Ginter were given a canine moniker, he would surely be 'The German shepherd'.

Berti Vogts (l.) tussles with Liverpool's Kevin Keegan (r.) during the 1977 European Cup final in Rome. - imago/Colorsport

More silk than steel, the 25-year-old did play at full-back like Vogts in the early days of his career at hometown club Freiburg, and helped out there at his next career stop, Borussia Dortmund. But it is at centre-back where Ginter's reading of the game and passing ability — 86 per cent of passes completed in open play this season — have come to the fore at Gladbach.

Using anticipation dosed with just the right amount of aggression — just four fouls committed in his 10 Bundesliga games to date in 2019/20 — Ginter has become a key element underpinning the Foals' rearguard, acting as the last line of defence and the first wave going forward.

"During the time he's been at Gladbach, I would say he has certainly taken steps forward, especially in recent months," sporting director Max Eberl said in November. "Matze is a good example that not only 18 or 19-year-olds can develop at Borussia, but also 23 and 24-year-olds."

Even with a black eye, Matthias Ginter has given everything in two and a half years for Gladbach. - 2019 DFL

Ginter does share one other notable thing in common with Vogts: he's also a FIFA World Cup winner.

Verdict: Vogts has done more for club and country.

Yann Sommer vs. Wolfgang Kleff

"Sepp Maier absolutely wanted to know if he was the best and every morning asked his dog, 'Who's the best goalkeeper in Germany?' And the dog always answered simply: 'Kleff! Kleff!"

Kleff's sense of humour and timing would serve him well as a double for famous German actor Otto Waalkes once he had hung up his gloves, and the Foals' iconic backstop needed it as — on the international stage at least — he stood in the shadow of Bayern's Maier, winning just six caps to go with 1972 Euro and 1974 World Cup winners' medals for which he never stopped a shot.

Domestically the gap was much, much closer as he picked up five league titles, a DFB Cup, two UEFA Cups, and European Cup and UEFA Cup runners-up medals in the 1970s where he and Maier's own duel mirrored that of their clubs.

Wolfgang Kleff got his hands on the Bundesliga Meisterschale five times as a player. - imago sportfotodienst/imago/WEREK

Compared to Sommer's much more modest medal haul of four Swiss titles with Basel, Kleff is a serial and major trophy winner, succeeding in the ultimate test of continental football, a feat Sommer has yet to come anywhere near.

Sommer though does have some heft to his claim as one of Gladbach's all-time greats. Kleff came to the club from amateur football and — initially — was back-up, but when he did earn his place, he did not miss a domestic game for eight years!

Sommer has been almost as regular, being sidelined for just six of the 183 possible Bundesliga matches Gladbach have played since he arrived in 2014. That's arguably an even greater achievement given he has also been Switzerland's number one since Diego Benaglio's retirement five years ago.

Watch: Goalkeeping legend Oliver Kahn compares Sommer with Manuel Neuer

He boasts a lower goals-conceded-per-game ratio — admittedly only just — than Kleff at 1.26 compared to 1.28. It is the same with clean sheets: Sommer registering one every 3.3 games to Kleff's 3.7 games. The fact Marco Rose trusts the Swiss with the captain's armband also suggests his influence extends well beyond his performances on the pitch.

Verdict: Sommer edges it on stats, but Kleff storms through on 'show me the medals'.

Denis Zakaria vs. Rainer Bonhof

As the club's vice-president, Bonhof watches Zakaria every week from the stands of the Bundesliga stadium in which Gladbach find themselves. Bonhof holds such a lofty position at the club in light of his performances between 1970 and 1978, during which he picked up four Bundesliga titles, a UEFA Cup and a DFB Cup.

More creative than Zakaria, Bonhof was a free-kick specialist, and — as the youngest member of the squad — teed up Gerd Müller for the winning goal in the 1974 World Cup final. He also played a part in Germany's Euro '72 and '80 victories.

Not bad for a man who, as a kid, only had a Dutch passport. "It was quite common that people lived on one side of the border with a passport from the other side," he said.

Rainer Bonhof (c.) was one of five Gladbach players to lift the World Cup in their home tournament in 1974. - imago sportfotodienst/imago/WEREK

Zakaria has a cosmopolitan background too: born in Geneva to South Sudanese parents. While the Switzerland international may not have the artfulness of his renowned predecessor in the Gladbach engine room, he certainly has the industry as he showed when he was parachuted into the defensive midfield role for the opening game of the season, the goalless draw at home to Schalke.

But to reduce the rangy 23-year-old, who was signed from Young Boys in 2017, to a midfield destroyer would be unfair as he has played most for club and country as a number 8.

His two goals and an assist from 13 league games so far — as well as his near-88 per cent pass completion — do more than hint at his ability to get effectively from box to box, breaking up opposition attacks at one end before hurtling upfield to be a goal threat at the other. And he is improving with every game.

Denis Zakaria has become the midfield motor in this current Gladbach side. - 2019 DFL

"I'm on the way up," he said in November. "I hope it will continue."

Verdict: Bonhof had his way of making the Gladbach midfield tick; Zakaria has his, and it's just as effective.

Marco Rose vs. Hennes Weisweiler

Rose, like every Gladbach coach, knows about Weisweiler. Who in German football doesn't? His name is used to christen the Cologne mascot, but Mönchengladbach owe their nickname — Die Fohlen, the Foals — to the free rein Weisweiler gave his young talented players, including Netzer and Vogts, after he took over in 1964.

He was responsible for bringing Heynckes into the first team of the then second-tier side, and using the experience he had garnered from spending time with Sepp Herberger — the coach of Germany's 1954 World Cup-winning side — he took the shackles off his squad, and the results were spectacular.

Within a year, a place in the Bundesliga was won as they were promoted alongside Bayern. By 1971, he would go down in history as the first man to take a side to back-to-back German top-flight titles. "Weisweiler was an unconventional coach. He wanted to get close to the players," said Heynckes noting his ex-boss' departure from the strict disciplinarian role most coaches took at the time. "He always listened to us, and let some of it flow into his daily work. That was his great strength."

Fabled head coach Hennes Weisweiler won three Bundesliga titles with the Foals, as well as a DFB Cup and the UEFA Cup in 1975. - imago images / Horstmüller

Weisweiler was all but unknown to the wider footballing public when he took charge; the same cannot be said for Rose. He had won successive league titles in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg and taken them to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals in 2017/18 - achievements that helped convince Gladbach he was the man to take them to new heights. Or perhaps that should be back to the old ones…

"The way he deals with his team, how he always asks for more from his players, his way of speaking, and how he coaches on the sidelines, Marco Rose is really a lot like Hennes Weisweiler," said Vogts recently.

"I don't think we'll change anything about how we want to go out onto the pitch and how we want to play football, because I'm glad to hear that it looks good and is fun to watch," Rose told bundesliga.com, echoing sentiments Weisweiler, who would've turned 100 this year, would surely have shared.

Watch: Rose's Gladbach under the tactical microscope

"To an extent that is our task, and our goal too. Football in front of 50 to 80 thousand is entertainment as well, so if the people are having fun, we're doing a lot of things right.

Verdict: If Berti Vogts says it, who are we to argue? Now all Rose has to do is deliver the league title.