Ahead of his final game before retiring for the second time in his career, legendary head coach Jupp Heynckes has shared his thoughts on his remarkable comeback with Bayern Munich - which even included some words of wisdom from Usain Bolt along the way…
“If you look at how Bayern played in October and how they played at the Santiago Bernabeu, they're worlds apart,” Heynckes told Bayern’s club website as part of an extensive interview.
The now 73-year-old took over the club in October, five points adrift of Borussia Dortmund after the first seven games of the season and on the back of a damaging defeat to Paris-Saint Germain in the UEFA Champions League.
Twenty-six Bundesliga matches later and Bayern have secured a record sixth consecutive league title, and will finish at least 24 points ahead of second place. Throw in a Champions League semi-final appearance and the prospect of lifting the DFB Cup final on 19 May, and the turnaround under Heynckes has been nothing short of astonishing.
“Bastian Schweinsteiger told me via WhatsApp he's never seen anyone change as much as we've done since October,” Heynckes said. “When I started I didn't think of winning the championship title or advancing to the cup final or the Champions League semi-finals. First I considered how to approach the task, how to manage the training load. It was a difficult time.”
Of course not all secrets behind the success can be revealed, but the Bayern players have made it known that the connection between those behind the scenes and squad has been key to the club’s upturn in fortunes since the 2013 treble winner’s return to Munich.
Heynckes himself says he and his staff left no stone unturned, introducing their philosophy, methods and meticulousness in order to achieve what was needed. There were also some spontaneous moments of inspiration for one old dog who can be taught new tricks.
“We were in the international break, the players returned to the Säbener Strasse one by one, so I gave a total of three inaugural addresses in the fitness room (laughing),” Heynckes said.
“I quoted Usain Bolt because I had just read a biography on him before I came to Munich. When he celebrated his biggest successes, he said something like: 'Of course I'm blessed with exceptional talent, but I could have never achieved the big triumphs without my team.' I wanted to tell my team: you won't achieve anything in football without team spirit and team work. That's why you can't just buy a team to win the Champions League. They have to grow together.”
With just three defeats in all competitions since his return, it’s clear that the team spirit improved dramatically both on and off the pitch. So many sub-plots appeared throughout the season, galvanising a squad of natural-born winners. Stories such as Sven Ulreich’s remarkable run in goal in place of the injured Manuel Neuer; James Rodriguez making the Bundesliga his own; the return to midfield prominence of Javi Martinez; and the introduction of young, talented faces such as Franck Evina and Mertian Shabani.
It all came together, in the end, in a successful season which Heynckes says was a pleasure to be a part of.
It will be the eighth time in total that he will lift the Meisterschale, but he admits it will be one of his most emotional as he now looks ahead to time with his family and enjoying retirement.
Watch: Heynckes' Top 5 Bundesliga moments!
“I never planned these eight months, they were an additional chapter in my biography, albeit very exceptional,” Heynckes continued. “To take over a club like Bayern aged 72, turn everything upside down and return it to winning ways: I can't tell you how emotional it'll be for me.”