Jupp Heynckes turned 70 last week and Pep Guardiola made sure he paid due respect. “Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, Jupp”, he said in his best German during one of his press conferences.
“Congratulations on your birthday, Jupp” was the message; he would have been hard-pressed not to remember it because Heynckes is Bayern royalty after winning the Bundesliga, German Cup and European Cup the season before Guardiola arrived in 2013.
Speak to enough journalists, commentators and supporters and the inevitable phrase will be uttered soon enough: “You see the problem with Pep is, Jupp won the treble”.
That isn’t the only problem. Everyone liked Jupp. Uli Hoeness sacked him in 1991 and in 2012 he was also the man who delivered the news that Guardiola would replace him at the end of the season. Yet still Heynckes stood by his friend when he was sent to prison for tax evasion.
Heynckes winning the treble was the worst thing that could have happened to Guardiola but, after Bayern’s Champions League exit to Barcelona, memories of how it was achieved might actually calm the situation on Säbener Strasse and persuade the club not to push their 44-year-old coach too hard when they sit down with him at the end of the season and discuss the future.
Guardiola has just one year left on his current deal and there are many who say he cannot possibly take Bayern into next season without signing a contract extension. It would be too unstable a situation and the team would suffer, goes the argument.
Yet everyone knew Heynckes was on his way in 2012 and Bayern still won three major trophies. Sure, it was on a wave of popularity but who is to say Guardiola would not stir the same emotions if the players knew he was leaving?
Stability is overrated. Manchester United were stable at the start of last season with the ink still drying on David Moyes’ five-year contract – that lasted 10 months.
Players still want to win, whoever the manager, and Bayern showed under Heynckes that the approaching end of an era can even galvanise a squad. Pretty much the same has happened at Barcelona this season with the players and Luis Enrique getting on with each other because they know it will only be for a few more months.
If Guardiola does refuse to sign an extension and only stays for his remaining year, the real dilemma at Bayern will come at the start of the 2016-17 season when they will have to replace him. After the European Championships, Germany coach Joachim Löw will probably be available and Jürgen Klopp may be coming to the end of his sabbatical, if he takes one. But could either man work with Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer? Neither is a fan.
The best young coach in Germany, Thomas Tuchel, is heading for Dortmund to replace Klopp. One German journalist told me in jest: “Maybe Louis van Gaal could come back [to Bayern], at least until Hoeness is released”. Those two have the same relationship as Löw and Klopp with Sammer.
Whatever happens the one certainty is that anyone given a five-year contract will not be finishing it. And no one is about to embark on a 27-year Sir Alex Ferguson style reign. If Guardiola stays for one more year, the world will not end. After all, Heynckes – for old times sake, and while clearing his desk – won the treble.
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