Jupp Heynckes has begun his fourth spell in charge of Bayern Munich by insisting that “age is just a number.” Meanwhile, Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have pledged to work more harmoniously together.
Bayern Munich head coach Jupp Heynckes says he is confident of turning the club’s season around, insisting at his unveiling on Monday morning that “age is just a number.”
Heynckes, 72, was presented as the German champions’ new head coach at a press conference in Munich after agreeing to come out of retirement to take over from Carlo Ancelotti until the end of the season.
The Italian had been relieved of his duties following a 3-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and with Bayern sitting five points behind Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.
“After leaving Bayern in 2013, I didn’t think I would coach a club again. I thought that was it,” Heynckes revealed. “Critics say I’ve been out the game for four years but football’s not been re-invented. I’ve followed very closely.”
‘Age is just a number’
Bayern had faced criticism for appointing a coach who has been in retirement for four years since ending his third spell in charge of the Bavarian club after winning the treble in 2013. Heynckes will be joined in Munich by his former assistants Hermann Gerland, 63, and Peter Hermann, 65 – giving Bayern’s new coaching staff a combined age of over 200.
“Age is a number and nothing more,” insisted Heynckes. “Some feel old at 45 but I’ve not changed. I still love music and sport. I feel young.”
Heynckes’ first challenge will be to repair a series of rifts which have emerged in the Bayern Munich dressing room – ostensibly between the northern European contingent around Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Thomas Müller and a Hispanic fraction centered on Thiago Alcantara and Arturo Vidal.
Heynckes, who speaks fluent Spanish following spells at Teneriffe, Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid, believes he has the experience to deal with that but insisted that there is a need to “restore a hierarchy.”
“I will not shy away from conflict,” he said. “I want to form a team where everyone works for the other, with respect and togetherness in the forefront. Our team has class and potential. It’s my job to entice that class out again. I know exactly where I need to start.”
On the pitch, Heynckes’ Bayern find themselves playing catch-up in a Bundesliga which is increasingly dominated by a new generation of coaches who play, in Heynckes’ words, “a very systematic style of football” – and the veteran coach admitted that “it will be difficult to catch Borussia Dortmund – I’m realistic.”
Heynckes’ appointment – strictly until the end of the season – has been interpreted as a victory for club president Uli Hoeness in his power struggle with chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. While the latter is said to have preferred former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, Hoeness favored a temporary solution before making a move for Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann in the summer.
Both men refused to comment on Heynckes’ eventual successor, Rummenigge stating that “we won’t say in 2017 what will happen in 2018” while Hoeness said Bayern “have bought ourselves time.”
The pair also admitted that they have had disagreements over the direction of the club in recent years which have been played out too publically and pledged to work together more harmoniously in future – beginning by unanimously welcoming Heynckes.
I’m personally very happy that my best friend is back at the club,” said Hoeness while Rummenigge added: “Jupp is an absolute champion. He knows Bayern inside out and I’m convinced that he’s the ideal man for the job.”
Talisman Thomas Müller, who had been critical of the intensity of training sessions under Ancelotti, also welcomed the appointment. “We’ll have proper coaching again,” he said after Germany’s 5-1 win over Azerbaijan in Kaiserslautern. “Heynckes will give the team a new impulse to work hard and suffer for the team.”
Is experience enough?
Others are less convinced. Speaking to tabloid BILD, former Germany coach Berti Vogts highlighted Bayern’s reliance on veteran wingers Robben and Ribery, saying: “Experience is important and Jupp and his coaches did everything right back in 2013, but unfortunately on the playing side, experience isn’t everything, especially in attack. The likes of Robben and Ribery don’t go into the challenges like they used to, especially away from home.”
German national team coach Joachim Löw also urged caution. “On most levels, experience is worth it’s weight in gold in football, but not on all counts,” he said after guiding Germany to ten wins from ten to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. “But you also need to keep things fresh and dynamic to be competitive at the top.”
Löw’s name has also been tentatively connected with Bayern Munich but national team manager Oliver Bierhoff appeared to dismiss such rumours. “Firstly, Jogi has a contract until 2020,” he said. “Secondly, if Bayern came poking their head around the corner, I would put a stop to it.”