Talking with a Legend: The Man Behind Bayern Munich's Success

Jupp Heynckes is leaving football after a star-studded career as a player and coach, capped with Bayern Munich's most successful season ever. In a SPIEGEL interview, he discusses victories and disappointments, his friend Uli Hoeness, his successor Pep Guardiola and his new desire for peace and quiet.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Heynckes, you've just gone into retirement as the coach of the most successful FC Bayern Munich team in the history of football. Will you now be getting a state pension?

Heynckes: Yes, I've had one for the past three years, since turning 65.

SPIEGEL: May we ask how much you receive?

Heynckes: €217 ($287) a month.

SPIEGEL: So it was helpful that you were able to boost your retirement nest egg with another stint in Munich. What's the story behind this meager pension?

Heynckes: In 1967, I left the state pension system and signed up with a private pension fund. At the time, I was told this was a wise decision.

SPIEGEL: In any case, it hasn't put a damper on your career. The older you've gotten, the more respect and admiration you've received. You must feel like the Helmut Schmidt of football (editor's note: former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who led the country from 1974 to 1982, still remains one of Germany's most popular and respected political figures at age 94).

Heynckes: I'm afraid that would be too much of an honor. I'd say that individuals are respected who stick to their convictions instead of doing whatever happens to be in fashion. That's something I appreciated about Schmidt when he was chancellor.

SPIEGEL: One year ago, you and Bayern Munich were the runner-ups. You lost the Champions League final to Chelsea 4-3 on penalties. And you lost the German Football Association (DFB) Cup 5-2 against Borussia Dortmund. At the club, they called it a "disaster."

Heynckes: I was criticized, even within Bayern Munich. But that's warranted if the results aren't right.

SPIEGEL: Did you doubt yourself during this period?

Heynckes: No. As a player and a coach, I've had plenty of great moments, but I've also experienced disappointments. The disappointments are not about self-doubt, but rather about change. I've always seen failures as a personal challenge. I say to myself: Now I have to find out if I have the right stuff. The defeat against Chelsea meant that last season I had no private life. My job demanded my full attention.

SPIEGEL: What was it like when you saw your team for the first time after this defeat? Did you talk about failure?

Heynckes: Psychologically, it would have been completely wrong to mull over this result. We all knew why we'd lost. I had to move beyond that.

SPIEGEL: What did you say to your players?

Heynckes: I told them a bit about my career, about dealing with victories and defeats. In 1972, I played on the West German team that won the UEFA European Championship, even though I wasn't even a regular player in the run-up to the tournament. Two years later, I was in the starting lineup for the German national team competing for the World Cup, but after an injury I was sidelined for the entire final. I told my players that this was the greatest disappointment of my life, but it spurred me on and became my greatest source of motivation. One year later, I was on the team that won the Bundesliga championship and the UEFA Cup -- and I was the top scorer.

SPIEGEL: And that was enough to forge the most successful team in the history of German football?

Heynckes: I said: Listen people, if we don't realize that we have to work as a team, and if we don't all work harder, and if we're not hungrier for success, then we won't win anything next year, either. They very quickly adopted a different mindset. Players who had never learned teamwork were able to overcome their egoism, and even Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry suddenly took on defensive duties.

SPIEGEL: Bastian Schweinsteiger missed the decisive penalty against Chelsea and also played poorly on the German national squad during the European Championship. What did you do with him to make him into your most valuable player?

Heynckes: Before the first game of the season, I told people that I thought Schweinsteiger was the best midfielder in the world. Public statements like that strengthen a professional player.

SPIEGEL: Do you put him on the same level in Bundesliga history as Wolfgang Overath and Günter Netzer, the two great playmakers of the 1950s?

Heynckes: He even has an advantage over them: Schweinsteiger influences his entire team's play, while Overath and Netzer only shaped their teams' offensive movements.

SPIEGEL: In April 2012, Ribéry gave Robben, his apparently unpopular teammate, a black eye during the Champions League match against Real Madrid. Now, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says that he has never experienced this degree of team harmony in his 39 years of professional football. You can't achieve something like that with just a few heart-to-heart talks.

Heynckes: I think it has a great deal to do with my style of leadership, and part of this is that I'm always up-front with my players, even if I realize that this honesty will occasionally hurt their feelings. The players trusted me as an individual and had confidence in my expertise.

SPIEGEL: Did this trust in your expertise go so far that you could relegate Mario Gomez -- a center forward on the German national squad -- to the bench and have him actually accept that?

Heynckes: I told Gomez: You were injured for a while, and during this period Mario Mandžuki played on the team. We have been successful with Mandžuki. Now, you have to get in shape again, and we have to try to take everyone's interests into account. That wasn't always easy, including for me.

SPIEGEL: Was it a social gesture of sorts that Gomez was allowed to play in the DFB Cup final against Stuttgart right from the start?

Heynckes: A Bayern Munich coach can't afford any social gestures. I always fielded the team that I felt had the greatest chances of success. I then told the player who was sidelined: I'm not deciding against you, but in favor of success.

Since Mandžuki sat on the bench for a couple games, he didn't become the season's top scorer. I told him: I robbed you of an opportunity to become the most successful goal-scorer in the league. But do you know what I've given you? You've become the German champion! You've won the Champions League and the DFB Cup. A couple of days ago, he sent me a text message.

SPIEGEL: What did he write?

Heynckes: That he has me to thank for it all.

SPIEGEL: Have the other players ever come to you and said: "Coach, you did a great job"?

Heynckes: Of course. It was my idea to bring the Spaniard Javi Martínez on board. It's clear that that he is a player with a market value of €20 or €25 million, but due to a contractual clause he costs €40 million. I admit that I had serious problems with paying this amount. He didn't play so well at first, either. The men upstairs …

SPIEGEL: ... You're referring to club chairman Rummenigge and club president Uli Hoeness …

Heynckes: … didn't say anything, but body language also conveys a message. My approach was: Wait, and things will improve. After a while, players like Neuer, Lahm and Schweinsteiger came to me and said: "This one's a winner." That kind of thing bolsters a coach in a group.

SPIEGEL: Your goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, made a great comment after the Champions League final: "When the team from Dortmund shot the equalizer, my ass went stone cold." Are you familiar with such feelings during a match?

Heynckes: I'm never afraid during a game, and I have no negative thoughts. I think about what I have to do. Which players can be substituted? And where I can manage to squeeze in a slight advantage? I remain very calm, which is why I never engage in any sideline antics.

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1. Heynckes OK. Hoeneß bad example
raber 06/24/2013
Good answers from this great guy Jupp Heynckes. His statements regarding Mr Hoeneß are soft. Mr Hoeneß, if he did not pay his taxes, should be punished without any consideration that he is a millionaire or that he knows plenty of important people in Germany. If guilty, it's a criminal act and with high values behind. Something interesting about Mr Hoeneß character is that he criticized loudly and publicly others and at the end of the day he is even worse. All the best to Jupp Heynckes !
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About Jupp Heynckes
  • DPA
    Jupp Heynckes, 68, is leaving the football world after a playing and coaching career spanning over four decades. While a player, he won multiple national and international trophies, and he remains the third-highest scorer in Bundesliga history. His coaching career has been equally successful. Most recently, he led Bayern Munich to its best season ever, winning the German championship, DFB Cup and Champions League in 2012-2013. However, his contract was not renewed and he says he plans to permanently retire from coaching.
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