Germany’s top 2 clubs will face off in the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley tomorrow. Guiding them to the finals have been 2 managers who stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. Jupp Heynckes and Jürgen Klopp have masterminded their team’s successful runs to the showpiece final each with his own unique style.
The final is as much about the 2 managers as their teams; Heynckes is 68 and into his 25th and final managerial season and coming to the end of a highly successful career as coach. Klopp is 45, into his 10th season in management, is one of the finest young managers around and has a long way to go in his career. Both managers are hard task masters, but while Heynckes represents a more sullen, traditional serious approach, Klopp has a more modernistic, exuberant side to his management. It’s a battle of contrasting styles on the touchline in Wembley tomorrow night.
Jürgen Klopp and his Borussia Dortmund side have become the darlings of the footballing world. Part of it is down to the brand of football that has been on display and part of it due to the charismatic nature of their manager. ‘Kloppo’, as he is affectionately called by his players, has become an object of fascination for the media with his open and informal approach, especially at interviews. With his rugged looks, goofy smile and light-hearted humour, Klopp is a manager with something of a ‘rockstar’ image. He even resembles a stand-up comedian at times in his discussions with the press and has received as much attention and coverage as his team, perhaps even more.
Dortmund was Klopp’s first ever club outside of Mainz where he spent 19 years – 12 as a player and after retirement went on to serve as manager of Mainz for another 7 years. From 2005-2008, before he took the Dortmund job, Klopp was in a media role with German television network ZDF as an expert commentator for games involving the German national football team. In his 6 years at Dortmund, he has won 2 Bundesliga titles back to back and 2 German Cups. Wolfgang Frank, Klopp’s coach at Mainz, is his role model and inspiration. Frank himself imbibed a lot from the work of Arrigo Sacchi at AC Milan and Klopp holds the Italian in high regard.
The ‘gegenpressing’ style of play, as it has come to be known, is what Klopp brought to the Ruhr valley club after he took over in 2008 and in the 5 years since, it has brought the club up the ladder to reach the very top. With a high work rate, Dortmund work tirelessly with and without the ball and rapidly press and close down the opposition to try to regain possession, all the way from centre-forward to centre-back. Although their pressing style resembles that of Barcelona, they attack with greater speed and intensity than the Catalan side whose priority is to retain possession of the ball and build up attacks in a more measured way. Klopp believes that open, exciting, attacking football is what Dortmund’s loyal fans expect and deserve.
Klopp is never overly concerned about being politically correct. Of late, he has engaged in a bitter battle with Bayern Munich over the Bavarian giants poaching his best players and copying their style. “What can I say?” Klopp said with a shrug when asked about Bayern poaching his best players. “We are not a supermarket but they want our players because they know we cannot pay them the same money. If that’s what Bayern wants… It’s like James Bond – except they are the villain.” He also compared them to China in their quest to be the best saying, “Right now, it’s a bit like what the Chinese do in economics or industry. Watch the others and plagiarize what they do. Take the same path, only with more money and other players. And for the moment, you will be better again.”
Captain Kloppo is on a mission as he looks to inflict a damaging loss on his bitter rivals to leave them with a third final defeat in 4 years as a means of some retribution after being forced to part with not only their Bundesliga and German Cup titles, but also their talismanic playmaker in Mario Götze, whose services he will be without in tomorrow’s final.
As much coverage that Jürgen Klopp has received from the electronic and print media, Jupp Heynckes has received zilch. It is not exactly Klopp’s fault for he is not an attention seeking man, unlike the ‘Special One’, but it’s just got to do with the media houses who tend to be a little unfair in shutting out the unglamorous characters of the footballing world.
The nickname for Heynckes, borrowed from the German lighting company, came about for the way in which his face tends to redden or bear a reddish glow when he gets agitated on the sidelines. It was first used by Rudi Gores, a former German footballer and coach. That’s about all the emotion the veteran German coach exhibits during a game as opposed to the myriad expressions that one can see from Klopp. A stoic, low profile man, Heynckes is one of the most decorated coaches in German football.
A well-travelled man, the wily German has managed clubs in Germany, Spain and Portugal and is one of the most experienced hands around. He has won 3 Bundesliga titles, 3 German Cups (all with Bayern Munich) and 1 Champions League (with Real Madrid) in his long tenure; this is his 27th season in management. The silverware maybe less when compared to some others, but that’s not accounting for the work that he has done at some of the smaller teams in Spain and Germany such as Athletic Bilbao and Schalke, where he led them from mid-table obscurity to qualifying for European competition.
He was also a predator of a forward in his playing days and has both a European Championship (1972) and World Cup (1974) winners medal to his name. At club level, he won 4 Bundesliga titles, 1 German cup and 1 UEFA Cup with Borussia Monchengladbach, a club where he played 12 of his 15 seasons as a professional footballer. And yet, despite all that he has done, Heynckes has never received the credit due to him.
Heynckes, of course, has not let any of that affect his performances on the field, be it as player or manager. There has been untoward criticism hurled at him by fans and media in the various countries that he has been, yet the man has managed to keep his head and continue doing what he does best – deliver results.
When he came back to Bayern for a third stint in 2011, the team was in a shambles, ridden with internal squabble and indiscipline and also defensive frailties. Heynckes has gone about carefully rebuilding this team since then and after being outgunned to the Bundesliga title the last two years by Borussia Dortmund, Bayern have returned with a bang conquering all in their path as they romped to the title this year.
Bayern too, under Heynckes, are pressing the ball a lot better, allowing teams very little time on the ball. During their 7-0 mauling of Barcelona in the semis, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi constantly found themselves shackled and harassed by a player in a red shirt and the various channels that Barca constantly use were expertly cut out.
“You have got to analyse how an opponent plays, where they run, how they attack. Then find something you can hold against that.” – said Bayern’s coach after the Barca win. That is vintage Heynckes; who is known to be a master tactician and a manager who spends an incredible amount of time in meticulously preparing for a game.
A FINAL TO RELISH
Borussia Dortmund are in uncharted territory, most of this season’s Champions League campaign has been. It has been 16 years since they won their only European Cup in 1997 and this run marks a return to prominence for Borussia on the European stage. For Bayern Munich, it is an opportunity to right the wrongs of previous finals. The pain of those 2 finals losses still lingers, especially the one last year in front of their home crowd, and Heynckes will be keen to set that record straight.
Dortmund have come to dominate this rivalry in the past few years – Bayern have won only 2 of their last 10 meetings, losing 5 and drawing the remainder. This season, Bayern brushed past every other club in the Bundesliga, save for Dortmund. The one win they did have was a narrow 1-0 victory in the DFB Pokal Cup.
If he wins tomorrow night, he will become only the 4th manager to win the Champions League with different clubs – after Ernst Happel, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jose Mourinho. And if Bayern follow that up, as they are widely expected to, with winning the German Cup, he will have achieved an unprecedented treble, something never done before by a German club and achieved only thrice previously in history – PSV Eindhoven in 1988, Manchester United in 1999 and Barcelona in 2009.
History beckons for Heynckes as he looks to leave Bayern Munich on the highest pedestal possible. While the man in the opposing dugout, Jürgen Klopp, is looking to challenge the dominance of mighty Bayern on the European stage, Heynckes knows that victory tomorrow could well be the starting point of a new era of dominance for Bayern Munich, not just over Dortmund, but the whole of Europe.
Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich.
Klopp’s ‘Band of Merry Men’ vs Heynckes’ ‘Mean Machine’!
It is truly an occasion to savour!