x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Return of Bayern Munich rivalry with Real Madrid

There have been a number of incidents over the years that created bad blood between the sides. Audio

Despite the intensity of their rivalry, Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes, right, has respect for the way Real Madrid play.
Despite the intensity of their rivalry, Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes, right, has respect for the way Real Madrid play.

Uli Hoeness, the president of Bayern Munich, believes "Madrid respect us more than we respect them".

Jupp Heynckes, the head coach of the team who take on Real Madrid in the first leg of their Uefa Champions League semi-final in Bavaria tonight, says: "Bayern are the third strongest team left in the competition, behind Barcelona and Madrid."

Contradictory noises, then, from the upper floors of the Bayern hierarchy ahead of the 19th European Cup meeting between the most garlanded clubs of Germany and Spain.

Hoeness, steeped in the long, storied background of clashes between the two, makes history his ally: Bayern have more often triumphed over Real than vice versa.

Heynckes, speaking after a week where his squad's prospects of winning the Bundesliga have fizzled, knows a little more intimately the intense modern desire of Real for club football's principal prize.

After all, he reacquainted Real with it 14 seasons ago. Heynckes led the Spanish to the 1998 Champions League after a gap of 32 years since their previous such triumph. He had unlocked a door of sorts. Real won two of the next four after that, though they have failed to win the competition since 2002.

Heynckes was sacked immediately after that success. Too much time has passed, and he is too wise and experienced a man, that he remains embittered.

Besides, worse things have happened to his compatriots at Real's Bernabeu stadium, many of them while wearing Bayern colours.

Hoeness, a Bayern player and serial European Cup-winner with them in the mid-1970s, was asked by a Spanish reporter last week his most vivid memory of the Bayern-Real European saga and he picked out the semi-final of 1976: "A fan came on to the pitch to attack the referee," he recalled.

"I was nearby but our goalkeeper, Sepp Maier, grabbed the fan. Madrid were lucky the games wasn't abandoned. It was pretty hot outside the stadium too, with people throwing stones at our bus."

A grudge grew and grew from there and there have been a number of incidents since.

When Bayern eliminated Madrid from the Champions League in 2007, the last meeting, the Dutch midfielder Mark Van Bommel, then with the German club, made a vulgar gesture to the Madrid loyalists in the stands.

These raw expressions of an intense rivalry on the field are partnered, in football's super-corporate age, by muscle flexing in the boardroom. Real and Bayern are very often powerful allies in lobbying for club interests with Fifa and Uefa.

But they often present themselves as chalk and cheese as businesses. Hoeness boasts of Bayern's "always being the black" financially, and condemns the economic irresponsibility of Spanish clubs in general with regard to debt accumulation. Hoeness has little hesitation in drawing geopolitical parallels, either.

"The Spanish state lets the clubs owe it €750 million [Dh3.5 billion] in unpaid taxes. And the German government is now helping out the Spanish economy," he said.

"We are not a club who would ever spend €90m on a player." Which is how much Real paid for Cristiano Ronaldo.

When Ronaldo joined the Spaniards, Arjen Robben left there for Bayern. The Dutch winger, like Heynckes, has his own agenda in this tie, up against his former employer.

But no one on the pitch, keenly aware of all its soap-opera history, will fail to sense the special buzz. It is there whenever Bayern meet Real.

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