Herrlich led Jahn Regensburg from the German fourth division into Bundesliga 2 in the space of 18 months. - © © gettyimages / Maja Hitij
Herrlich led Jahn Regensburg from the German fourth division into Bundesliga 2 in the space of 18 months. - © © gettyimages / Maja Hitij

Ten things on new Bayer Leverkusen head coach Heiko Herrlich


From wild child to UEFA Champions League winner to cancer survivor, new Bayer Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich has handled every challenge life has thrown at him.

bundesliga.com looks at the man charged with bringing Die Werkself back to the business end of the Bundesliga table.

Read: Herrlich appointed Leverkusen coach

1)Wild child

Born in Mannheim, Herrlich grew up further south in Baden-Württemberg and the considered adult he is now stands in marked contrast to the almost uncontrollable youngster he was at school. "I didn't see it as being my fault, I couldn't understand why I was being punished, and just generally ran amok," he admitted. When Berti Vogts, then coach of Germany's U15 team, failed to call up Herrlich, the youngster threatened to quit the game only for Vogts to talk him round.

Herrlich in his playing days at Leverkusen. - © imago / imago/Kicker/Liedel

2)Leverkusen, Part I

After three years at local club Freiburg, Herrlich moved to Leverkusen for the first time, making his Bundesliga debut in a 1-1 draw with Karlsruhe on Matchday 5 of the 1989/90 season. It was the first of 75 top-flight matches for Die Werkself in which he scored six goals and laid on five more for his team-mates, and contributed to the victorious DFB Cup run of 1992/93.

3) Freescoring Foal

Leverkusen's Westphalian rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach brought in Herrlich in 1993, and after a modest eight goals in his first season as a Foal, the then-23-year-old striker enjoyed his best season individually. A return of four goals in his first ten Bundesliga matches of 1994/95 suggested a positive campaign ahead, but a flurry of seven strikes in the following six laid the foundations for a Torjägerkanone-winning season. He ended with 20 top-flight goals from 32 matches, sharing the honour with Bremen's Mario Basler, who played a game more. Given Herrlich ended his career with 74 goals in 258 Bundesliga games, it was by far his most prolific season.

Herrlich enjoyed coaching success at Jahn Regensburg in the last two seasons. - © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Alex Grimm

4)Bible in the bathroom

"A strange guy, who sits on the toilet and reads the Bible," said Martin Dahlin of his former Mönchengladbach team-mate. "My deep faith is not simply structured," said Herrlich. "If there is a God, then he is certainly not a machine to dispense wishes."

5) European champion

If his '94/95 season was his best as a player, the '96/97 campaign was undoubtedly the most memorable in terms of silverware. After swapping the Gladbach version of Borussia for the Dortmund brand in 1995, Herrlich helped BVB lift the Bundesliga title in his first season before playing his part in Die Schwarzgelben's historic UEFA Champions League win. He started the final against highly-fancied Juventus on the bench, replacing two-goal hero Karl-Heinz Riedle to enjoy the glorious final 23 minutes on the Olympiastadion pitch in Munich.

Herrlich's 1999 face-to-face meeting with Bayern 'keeper Kahn is the stuff of BVB legend. - © gettyimages / Mark Sandten

6)Faced up to 'Dracula' Kahn

If Herrlich's part in Dortmund's scaling of European club football's summit earned him an immortal part in the club's legend and a star in the Walk of Fame of a grateful city, his defiance in the face of Oliver Kahn in April 1999 gave his iconic status an added facet. Bayern Munich arrived in Dortmund closing in on the title, BVB needed the points to boost their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. "I remember Jürgen Kohler told me, 'Olli can be bothered at high balls. Just ruffle him a bit, and he'll lose his nerve." The fact Herrlich had scored twice, dashing the Bayern 'keeper's hopes of breaking the Bundesliga record for minutes without conceding a goal, did not help Kahn's mood. "Kahn didn't look good for the second goal. Perhaps it was too much for him. He came and pressed his nose into my neck," said Herrlich. "He didn't bite me, but I was celebrating inside that this exceptional goalkeeper had shown a weakness."

7) Determination personified

The unruly child has developed into a man whose determination took him through some of the toughest challenges anyone could face. "His strong will is his most distinctive trait," admitted his mother Erika. "With it, he would smash through a wall with his head."

Watch: Herrlich's spectacular goal for Leverkusen against Wattenscheid in 1990/91

8)'Worst time of my life'

It was a quality that would serve him well when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2000 while still a Dortmund player. "It was the worst time of my life," he acknowledged. He recovered, making his return in a derby with Schalke and earning an ovation from the fans of his club's bitter rivals just over a year later. Unsurprisingly, the Royal Blues' supporters were not the only ones whose perspective was changed by Herrlich's illness. "It's certain that no-one dies when you lose a game," he said. Since, Herrlich has been a tireless ambassador for cancer charities within Germany, notably encouraging sufferers to keep fit, "because I would like to motivate cancer patients who are in the same situation as I was to stay physically active."

9)Career end, new beginning

Though he returned from illness and saw Dortmund extend his contract through to 2005 shortly after his comeback, Herrlich never recaptured his best form. He played just over 90 Bundesliga minutes over the next two seasons before finally hanging up his boots in April 2004. "Even when I tried to play with the reserve team, it became increasingly clear to me that I no longer had a chance of proving myself as a footballer," Herrlich said. But as that door closed, another opened soon after when, having taking his first coaching badges, he was put in charge of Dortmund's U19 team in 2005.

10)Coaching, the story so far...

Success with the BVB youngsters was followed by a two-year spell with the DFB where he finished third with at the 2007 U17 World Cup with a Germany team featuring Kevin Trapp, Toni Kroos and Sebastian Rudy. He took over the U19s a year later, and would have succeeded Dieter Eilts as U21 coach only to reject the chance. He did step into the job at then-Bundesliga side Bochum in October 2009 only to fail to finish the season as the club was relegated. Spells at Unterhaching and Bayernf's U17 team followed before he led Jahn Regensburg to back-to-back promotions over the last two seasons and back into Bundesliga 2. "I'm very happy and get a lot of job satisfaction. To be clear: I would like to be in Regensburg next year," Herrlich said in mid-May, but that was before Leverkusen came calling.

Click here for the latest Bayer Leverkusen news.