Germany's most successful head coach, Udo Lattek, who turned 80 two weeks ago, has died at the age of 80 at a nursing home in Cologne
Germany's most successful head coach, Udo Lattek, who turned 80 two weeks ago, has died at the age of 80 at a nursing home in Cologne

Legendary head coach Udo Lattek dies

Cologne - Udo Lattek, the most successful Bundesliga head coach of all time, has passed away.

Three European titles

Lattek, who suffered two strokes and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2013, was 80 years old.

“The Bundesliga is mourning the passing of an extraordinary sportsman and an extraordinary person," said League president Dr. Reinhard Rauball upon hearing the news. "Like many in German football, I am losing a friend in Udo Lattek. We got to know and appreciate one another other 30 years ago. Honest, straightforward and sometimes stubborn – that was how Udo Lattek stood out. Yet at the same time he was also sensitive, and as a coach he was always receptive to the needs of his players. His success speaks for itself and eight German league titles will remain unmatched for a long time to come. He left an impression on several generations of players in German football and many of his former charges are still grateful to him to this day. Udo Lattek will be remembered as one of the Bundesliga’s outstanding figures. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife and family."

In his heyday, Lattek was regarded as one of the world’s best and most successful coaches. The Sensburg native won the Bundesliga title eight times - six times with FC Bayern München and twice with Borussia Mönchengladbach - and also lifted three DFB Cups. That impressive haul accounted for 11 of the staggering 15 trophies he won on both the domestic and European stages.

His greatest success came in winning the European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League) with FC Bayern in 1974. After being held to a 1-1 draw in the final against Club Atletico de Madrid, the Bavarians triumphed 4-0 in a replay to become the first ever German side to claim European football’s most prestigious prize. Lattek later went on to reach the final twice more before retiring, but was unable to recreate the feat, losing 3-1 to Liverpool FC with Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1977, and 2-1 to FC Porto with Bayern in 1987.

Nevertheless, Lattek belongs to a select group of head coaches who lifted all three European titles during their careers. In 1979 he guided the Foals to UEFA Cup glory against Red Star Belgrade, before claiming the European Cup Winners Cup with FC Barcelona in 1982.

First steps with the national team

Yet one of Germany's most legendary coaching careers very nearly didn't happen, as Lattek’s father toyed with the idea of not sending him to secondary school. Fortunately, the youngster did go on to receive an academic education and eventually studied at a Cologne-based school specialising in sport.

Putting what he had learned to good use as a physical education teacher, Lattek also simultaneously completed his football coaching licence under Hennes Weisweiler, a former assistant coach for the German national team. The latter then recommended Lattek for the same role under Bundestrainer Helmut Schön, allowing him to take his first step towards professional coaching between 1965 and 1970, which included a trip to England for the 1966 FIFA World Cup.

Domestic career takes off

On the advice of Franz Beckenbauer, then a star for both Bayern and Germany, the Reds subsequently came calling for the services of the young coach. Lattek spent close to nine full years (1970-1975 and 1983-1987) at the helm of the Bavarian giants and, with after recording 184 wins in 299 matches, etched his name in the club’s record books.

In between his spells in Munich he won two Bundesliga titles and the UEFA Cup with Gladbach before spending two years at Dortmund. Keen to test his mettle in a foreign league, Lattek then underlined his status as one of the world’s foremost tacticians by guiding Barcelona to European Cup Winners' Cup and Copa del Rey glory before returning to Bayern in 1983.

Famous blue pullover

Another change of scene saw him take up the role of sporting director with 1. FC Köln, a stint that produced one of the more memorable moments of his career. In the Billy Goats’ first game of the 1987/88 campaign, a 1-1 draw with Karlsruher SC in the middle of summer, Lattek was pictured wearing a blue pullover. When asked about it by the journalists in attendance, he declared it to be Köln’s new lucky charm, which he would only take off after they lost. The side ended up going the first 15 games of the campaign unbeaten, earning the blue pullover its place in history.

Lattek’s coaching days weren’t over, though. He returned to the sidelines with FC Schalke 04 in 1992, and when Borussia Dortmund were in danger of being relegated in 2000, he was convinced to come out of retirement for one last time. In tandem with Matthias Sammer, he guided BVB to a seven-point haul in the final three games of the season to ensure they preserved their top-flight status.

More recently, he attained cult status among fans across Germany during the 16 years he spent as a no-nonsense pundit on Doppelpass, a Sunday-morning football chat show on television station Sport1, from which he retired in May 2011. Lattek was honoured for his services to the Bundesliga in 2013. “He was one of the most modern coaches in Europe and he shaped football like few others have done since,” commented 2014 FIFA World Coach of the Year Joachim Löw. “You have to respect his successes.”