As Bayern prepare to face Dortmund this evening, Vincent Ralph turns the spotlight on the Bundesliga champions' manager.
When the announcement was made that Pep Guardiola would be joining Bayern Munich next season, it was hailed as the appointment that could ultimately turn the German’s into the best side in Europe. But when the former Barcelona coach does finally arrive at the Allianz Arena, he may have already seen his job done for him.
In all the build-up to today’s Champions League final between Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, it is the latter side’s manager, Jurgen Klopp, who has garnered most of the headlines. He is the next big thing, the man with the silver tongue and a growing list of suitors.
But his opposing manager this evening, Jupp Heynckes, is reaching the conclusion of what could be the greatest season in Bayern’s history.
Having already secured the Bundesliga title in record time – with 91 points, a goal difference of +80 and after winning all but five of 34 matches – Heynckes now turns his attention to Wembley, and the chance to claim the glorious centrepiece in what could ultimately be an unprecedented German treble.
The 68-year-old, who retires at the end of the season, has had a very successful career, guiding Bayern to three league titles over two spells at the club, and winning the European Cup while in charge at Real Madrid – their first for 32 years.
And yet this season could trump the lot, allowing Heynckes to leave knowing that Guardiola would not be arriving to transform the side, but to somehow live up to the German manager’s outstanding achievements.
In a year of footballing farewells, the Bayern boss’s retirement may not have registered in the minds of many English football fans. We have after all been too caught up in the departures of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jamie Carragher, Paul Scholes and David Beckham to name a few.
But today is Heynckes’ day. And perhaps it will be his night, too, should his side triumph over Klopp’s Dortmund.
Next weekend, Bayern face Stuttgart in the final of the German Cup. It will be Heynckes’ last match in charge before he leaves the game for good.
Win or lose tonight, his thoughts will soon turn to that match. But when he has no more games to look forward to, this will be the one he looks back on.
While Dortmund may be the neutrals' favourite, a success for Bayern would leave no one in any doubt. Bayern may be getting Guardiola, but it is Heynckes who made them what they are.
Can the Bayern manager finish his last season in charge with a treble?
image: © jiazi