x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Real Madrid's forgotten man looks to end their Champions League hopes

Jupp Heynckes' Bayern Munich take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their semi-final tonight.

Bayern Munich's head coach Jupp Heynckes has the chance to eliminate Real Madrid from the Champions League tonight.
Bayern Munich's head coach Jupp Heynckes has the chance to eliminate Real Madrid from the Champions League tonight.

The list of head coaches who have won the European Cup more than once is not a long one, and the roll of honour for those who have done so with different employers is famously short.

Ernst Happel was the first before Ottmar Hitzfeld, formerly of Borussia Dortmund then of Bayern Munich, matched a feat that only Jose Mourinho has since been able to repeat.

Jupp Heynckes is only 180 minutes from joining them. If he does he will certainly be lowest-profile member of that elite club.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Real Madrid, who meet Bayern in the second leg of their semi-final tonight, hardly remember who was their head coach when they won the Champions League in 1998, but it would not be an overstatement to say that credit to Heynckes for that achievement has been minimal.

The 1-0 over Juventus in that final would be Heynckes's last game in charge. He had been in the job only a season, but the club had been waiting 32 years to get their hands on the prize.

"It was the longest gap for Madrid in any competition," Manolo Sanchis, the Real captain then and now a pundit for Spanish television, said, "and he took over when there was huge urgency to address that long wait."

Heynckes had succeeded Fabio Capello, who on winning the previous league title wanted to return toAC Milan. Heynckes had enjoyed reasonable stints in Spain with Atheltic Bilbao and Tenerife, had coached Borussia Monchengladbach, where he spent most of his distinguished playing career, Eintracht Frankfurt, and won two Bundesliga titles in a first stint at Bayern.

Yet Real fans seemed underwhelmed by him, the players surprised when the caricature of a tough, unwielding German presented ahead of his appointment turned out to be a mirage.

Christian Panucci, the Italian defender in Real's team at that time, said of him: "He showed the players too much respect, and that was a mistake."

Real's squad was packed with forceful characters, such as Panucci, the opinionated Clarence Seedorf, the striker Pedja Mijatovic, later a director of sport at the club, the future Spain captains Fernando Hierro and Raul, and the Argentine midfielder Fernando Redondo.

John Toshack, who followed Heynckes into the job after an ill-fated tenure of a few months by Guus Hiddink, describes the players' internal politics at the time vividly: "It was like Baghdad at wartime in that dressing-room."

Heynckes would be seen as too soft on indiscipline or troughs of individual form. Barcelona won the Primera Liga that year. The story goes that before the meeting with Juventus, in Amsterdam, Lorenzo Sanz, the Real president who knew he would dismiss him, had a one-to-one chat with Heynckes and asked him how he felt ahead of the final.

"Demoralised," the German is said to have replied. The next day, Mijatovic's goal delivered the greatest prize in club football.

Fast forward nearly 14 years and Heynckes's Bundesliga season with Bayern, to whom he returned last summer, has been a little demoralising, too.

Borussia Dortmund won the title last weekend, having overhauled the early-season pacesetters, Bayern.

There is a hint of unrest within the dressing room. Bild-Zeitung confidently reported that during the first leg against Real last week, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben came to blows after an on-field disagreement about who should take a direct free kick. Heynckes did not deny the story, saying only "what happens behind closed doors stays there".

He would expect to field both his wingers, Robben and Ribery - whether they are friends, enemies or breakers of club rules - tonight because Bayern's play along the flanks proved so effective in the 2-1 win over Real eight days ago. It is a slender-looking advantage, and Heynckes will respect Real's potential to overturn it, with their formidable attacking options.

As for how much respect the Bernabeu crowd show for their former coach's contribution to their club's history, that remains to be seen.

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