Jupp Heynckes: a defining Bundesliga figure at Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach
When Jupp Heynckes oversaw his last match as a coach in the 2018 DFB Cup final, it brought down the curtain on a footballing career that spanned over half a century and took in teams across Germany, Spain and Portugal. Most remembered for guiding Bayern Munich to the 2013 treble, the Mönchengladbach native was also one of the most formidable strikers in German history for his hometown Borussia.
Heynckes’s story began on 9 May 1945 – the day after the end of World War II in Europe – as the ninth of 10 children for a blacksmith. He was born in a town known at the time as München Gladbach. A fitting name for someone who would forge such strong bonds with both Munich (München in German) and Mönchengladbach.
After spending most of his teenage years at Grün-Weiß Holt, he joined Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1962 and became U19 regional champion in his first season. Heynckes would be promoted to the first team for the 1964/65 campaign, playing under new coach Hennes Weisweiler and alongside new signing Günter Netzer as the Foals – nicknamed for their young team and carefree play – galloped to the Regionalliga West title thanks to his 23 goals in 25 games.
The 20-year-old would then score six times in as many games as Borussia came through the promotion group to finally earn their Bundesliga place. Just to add to the links that would define his later career, it was also the same year Bayern came up.
Watch: Heynckes’s top 5 moments
Later describing himself as a “child of the Bundesliga”, the local boy quickly made an impact in the top flight with four goals over the opening three matchdays, ending his first two Bundesliga seasons with a combined 27 goals and earning his first caps for Germany in 1967 – scoring in friendlies against Morocco and Bulgaria.
A move to Hannover followed that summer, where he would spend three years and score 25 Bundesliga goals before a 1970 return to newly crowned Bundesliga champions Gladbach.
See the full list of Bundesliga champions here
Heynckes would go on to lead Borussia through its golden era, first scoring 19 goals as they became the first team to successfully defend the Bundesliga title. He followed that over the next seven seasons with hauls of 19, 28, 30, 27, 12, 15 and 18 as Gladbach won the Meisterschale again in 1975, 1976 and 1977. He got seven in nine games as Borussia lifted the 1973 DFB Cup, and 11 from 10 appearances in their 1974/75 UEFA Cup-winning run.
By the time he hung up his boots in 1978, aged just 33, he’d scored a club record 291 times – over 150 more than any other player to date – in 409 games and was second on the Bundesliga’s all-time scoring chart with 218 from 368 matches. He only trailed Gerd Müller at the time, but has since dropped to fourth behind Robert Lewandowski and Klaus Fischer.
See the Bundesliga's all-time top 10 goalscorers
His 51 goals in European competitions puts him only behind greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Raul, Eusebio, Müller and Lewandowski. He was Bundesliga top scorer in 1973/74 and 1974/75, sharing the honour in the former with Müller on 30 goals each.
In fact, many believe that Heynckes’s career, which includes titles at international level for his country at the 1972 UEFA European Championship and the 1974 FIFA World Cup, was somewhat overshadowed and left underappreciated because it coincided with that of Der Bomber.
With the courses in plastering that he’d previously studied in case a career in football didn’t work out no longer necessary, Heynckes was back in the classroom before retirement – which he went into by scoring five goals in the biggest Bundesliga victory to date, a 12-0 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund – to do his coaching badges, working as assistant under his former boss Udo Lattek at Gladbach.
He would take over fully for the 1979/80 season and end up overseeing almost 350 games at the helm over eight seasons, making him the Foals’ second-longest serving coach after the man who first brought him into the team, Weisweiler.
Although he failed to win any silverware, he kept a team that regularly lost key players competitive, signed and developed a certain Lothar Matthäus, lost the 1983/84 DFB Cup final only on penalties to Bayern and only missed out on the Bundesliga Meisterschale the same year on goal difference after a three-way tie at the top between Gladbach, Hamburg and eventual champions VfB Stuttgart.
The lack of trophies didn’t deter Bayern, however. He was branded “the champion without titles” by media when the then 42-year-old swapped Mönchengladbach for Munich – again succeeding Lattek – in summer 1987. Although he finished his debut campaign as Bundesliga runner-up, he rebuilt the team and won the title in 1988/89 and 1989/90.
After losing out to Kaiserslautern the following season, departures and injuries meant the 1991/92 campaign got off to a bad start and Heynckes was dismissed on 8 October.
Heynckes had by this stage built up a bond with Bayern general manager Uli Hoeneß, who brought in and fired many coaches down the years at the club. But he would later famously describe his decision to get rid of Heynckes as his “biggest mistake” in half a century at the club.
While Bayern recovered from a 10th-place finish, Heynckes again followed in the footsteps of his former coaches Weisweiler and Lattek by becoming the third German to lead a team in the Spanish top flight when he took over at Athletic Bilbao in 1992.
He turned the club’s fortunes around, promoting young Basque players (as dictated by Athletic rules), such as Aitor Karanka, and took them from relegation battlers to UEFA Cup qualifiers in his two seasons there.
A return to Germany to take charge of Eintracht Frankfurt lasted only nine months before heading back to Spain, this time at the helm of Tenerife. He also guided them into the UEFA Cup, finishing fifth ahead of Real Madrid, and going all the way to the semi-finals in his second campaign before elimination against eventual winners Schalke.
Such achievements saw him picked to replace Fabio Capello at Real in 1997. It was always a tempestuous relationship, with clashes with the media, and club bosses even describing him on occasions as an interim solution.
Yet it was Heynckes who ended the Madrid club’s 32-wait for their seventh European crown. However, a fourth-place finish in La Liga meant he was sacked shortly after Los Blancos had beaten Juventus in the Champions League final.
He would take up the job at Benfica after a year out, guiding them to third in Portugal before a return to Bilbao during the 2001/02 campaign. He finished sixth and eighth in his two years back there, also going down in local history as the coach who handed Aritz Aduriz his La Liga debut.
Heynckes returned to Germany once again in 2003 to coach Schalke, but was soon deemed “too old fashioned” and dismissed by Rudi Assauer early into 2004/05.
After some time out where he helped care for his ill wife, Iris, he made his grand homecoming to Gladbach in 2006. But after his previous eight-year spell, this one lasted only 215 days with the team struggling.
In a 2013 interview with Der Spiegel, Heynckes said that his dismissal from Real Madrid “didn’t really bother me that much” but that one of the low points in his career was “when I received death threats for my failures in my hometown of Mönchengladbach”.
Disappointment and a knee replacement didn’t stop him, however. After over two years out the game again, he was back in Munich for the second time in April 2009 to see out the season after Jürgen Klinsmann was sacked. Yet he would begin the next season on the bench at Bayer Leverkusen and started with a 24-game unbeaten run, surpassing the previous league record that he’d set in charge of Bayern in 1988/89.
A fourth-placed finish was followed in his second season by a runner-up spot behind Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund. And after Bayern had parted ways with Louis van Gaal, it was announced that Heynckes would return to Bavaria once again to try and wrestle back the Meisterschale. But not before he returned his company car with a full tank of petrol and presented every employee at Leverkusen with envelopes of money as thanks.
Heynckes’s third spell at Bayern would go down in history. First, there was the treble that never was. Runners-up again to BVB in the Bundesliga and also the DFB Cup, that was then followed by the infamous Finale dahoam as Bayern lost the 2012 Champions League final in their own stadium on penalties to Chelsea.
There was speculation he would resign or be pushed by a board who believed he had looked tired. But we all know what happened next as he guided Bayern to a historic first treble of Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League, brushing aside all domestic rivals with a record 91 points, just one defeat (and none away from home). His side thrashed Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals to set up a Wembley encounter with Klopp and Dortmund, famously won in the 89th minute by Arjen Robben.
“Some clubs give up, but everyone at Bayern reacted in a very positive way,” Heynckes said ahead of the second leg with Barcelona. “We made changes, signed good players, modified some things and strengthened the team spirit.”
Watch: Bayern’s treble-winning season under Heynckes
He was seen as the driving force behind that team spirit, as midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger explained when discussing the 10-year anniversary of the Finale dahoam: “What fascinated me was how he developed as a coach after 2012. He got all the players, including those on the bench, the team behind the team, and the fans behind him. You could feel he was really enjoying it.
“He also told me once that it was the best time of his career. He loved working with us. And it was the same for us, just the other way round. He was like a father figure to us.”
The role of a father figure was no more evident on the final matchday of the season for an away game at – you guessed it – Gladbach. Heynckes was set to host the whole squad at his farm nearby, but the drinks were almost put back on ice with Bayern 3-1 down inside 10 minutes. A comeback to win 4-3 saved the festivities, but it was a sign of the players fighting for him.
Watch: Heynckes’s 2013 farewell to Mönchengladbach
And it was all very different from the perception people used to have of him – a record 23 years since he last led a team to the Bundesliga title – of being a strict disciplinarian, even suspending players at Eintracht who he felt weren’t training at a suitable level and once reading Toni Kroos the riot act at Leverkusen when returning from the summer break carrying a few extra pounds.
He spoke softly in press conferences even when riled (until pushed over the edge on occasion). It was likely that mix that meant no player questioned his authority at Bayern during those two years. He had an aura about him, a presence as he quickly moulded the team into the winning machine we still see today.
There’s an argument to say Heynckes laid the foundations for Germany’s 2014 World Cup victory with his core of German players and fluid 4-2-3-1 system, but he definitely did so for Pep Guardiola’s arrival in the Allianz Arena hotseat. A decision not without controversy.
He was reportedly irritated when Hoeneß told him before Christmas in 2012 that the club president was going to New York to negotiate a deal with the Spanish coach for the next season. Heynckes’s ability to decide whether to stay on or not was taken out of his hands. But three days after securing the treble and having some time to think, he announced he would retire.
“After everything that’s happened over the past two years, I’m ready for some peace and quiet,” he told Der Spiegel. “After this string of successes, I could transfer to just about any club in Europe. I have a problem with the finality of saying ‘never’. But I can assure you that I have no intention of coaching again. I had a worthy ending,” the then 68-year-old said on stepping back to return to his farm outside Mönchengladbach.
Almost nobody – not even he – expected to see him in a dugout again, but Bayern came calling once more in October 2017. The club had just dismissed Carlo Ancelotti and were already five points off Dortmund after seven games.
Jupp answered the call, after the seal of approval from his family and beloved dog Cando, eager to stress that this was no comeback but helping out a friend in Hoeneß only till the end of the season. It spoke volumes for Heynckes as a person that he maintained a friendship despite previously being fired and replaced by Hoeneß, saying on his return that “you shouldn’t forget who helped you along the way in your career”. It says just as much for him as a coach that he would lead Bayern to the title with five games to spare and a 21-point cushion over runners-up Schalke.
Watch: Heynckes makes one final return to Munich
There was to be no dream finish this time, though, as two former sides halted his progress to another treble, losing to Frankfurt in the DFB Cup final and to Real Madrid in the Champions League semis.
This retirement was final, though. There was no convincing him to stay on this time despite numerous public attempts by his friend Hoeneß.
The curtain came down on a Bundesliga career that spanned 19,264 days (almost 53 years), took in a record 1,038 Bundesliga games as a player and a coach – including an unmatched 518 wins – and eight Meisterschale (four each from his playing and coaching days).
He features proudly on exclusive lists of eight people to win the Bundesliga as a player and a coach, nine to win the continental treble, and five to lead two different teams to European glory.
One of the greatest strikers and coaches Germany ever produced, perhaps underappreciated for so long. But you still hear chants of “Jupp! Jupp! Jupp!” as fans remember the contribution made by the “child of the Bundesliga” to the game.
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