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Germany

Heynckes May Leave Guardiola with Mission Impossible at Bayern Munich




Andreas Ambarchian


When Pep Guardiola left his position as Barcelona coach at the end of last season, the young tactician became one of the most in-demand figures in football. Despite Guardiola’s own insistence that he would be taking a year out from the game, speculation linked the former Spain international with many of Europe’s major clubs, including Premier League sides Manchester City and Chelsea. The conjecture only ended in January of this year, when it was announced that Guardiola would be joining Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, in time for the start of the 2013/14 season.

The capture of Guardiola, who won 14 titles in just four years at the helm of Barcelona, is a major coup, even for a club of Bayern Munich’s stature; for Guardiola himself, however, the move could prove to be less gratifying.

The man currently in charge of the Munich club is Jupp Heynckes, now in his third spell as boss of the 22-times German champions. This season though will be the last on the bench for the German tactician, who looks set to bring an end to his managerial career when he retires at the end of the current campaign.

Heynckes was first brought in as Bayern Munich coach in 1987, winning two Bundesliga titles as well as two German Super Cups over the next four years, before having his contract terminated by the club in 1991. After a brief period as caretaker manager in 2009, taking over after the sacking of Jurgen Klinsmann, Heynckes returned to Bavaria in a permanent capacity in the summer of 2011, inheriting an underachieving side from outgoing manager Louis van Gaal.

Last term, Heynckes’ first season in his new, two-year deal, the experienced coach, whose first management job was in 1979 with German club Borussia Monchengladbach, helped to integrate young players such as goalscoring midfielder Toni Kroos and attacking full-back David Alaba into a Bayern Munich team that claimed a treble of second places, with the side finishing runners-up in the German Cup, the Bundesliga and the Champions League; a hugely disappointing year in some respects, yet one that offered sure signs of progress. This season has seen further development, with Heynckes’ Bayern Munich chasing a quadruple of wins: the German Super Cup is already in the bag, while the Munich-based club are on the verge of collecting the Bundesliga, and are among the favourites to win the Champions League, while they remain in the German Cup.

While there will be none of the moral issues associated with ousting a fellow manager when Guardiola takes charge at Bayern Munich, by the time the he is in the hot seat, the 42-year-old may well wish that he was replacing an underachieving manager: if Heynckes’ Bayern Munich are successful in their push for a treble of major trophies, Guardiola could find it difficult to better the work of his predecessor.

Moreover, under the guidance of Heynckes, the Bavarians employ an attacking brand of football that regularly steamrollers the opposition in a fashion that is, arguably, more entertaining than the skilful, yet often soporific, style of play that was the trademark of Guardiola’s Barcelona side; Heynckes’ team recently crushed Hamburg, themselves chasing a European spot, by the astonishing scoreline of 9-2.

Yet to attain a team capable of carrying out Guardiola’s vision of how the game should be played could require expensive rebuilding of an already expensively assembled Bayern Munich squad. Indeed, former player and president Franz Beckenbauer has already doubted the ability of the current Bayern Munich team to fill the roles of Guardiola’s former key men at Barcelona: four times Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, and Spanish World Cup and European Championship winning duo Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. The legendary sweeper was clear in his view that "Bayern can’t play like Barcelona."

Although Guardiola is likely to be given money to add to his squad, the former midfielder may also want to ship out those who do not fit his into his very specific plans. One player over whom substantial question marks linger is Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who was bought for €25M, while €30M striker Mario Gomez, signed in 2009 during the reign of Van Gaal, has also seen his name linked with the exit door.

The skilful Robben, who was Bayern Munich’s top scorer with 16 goals in his debut season at the Allianz Arena, has even been advised by erstwhile Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, now in charge of the Switzerland national team, to start planning his departure. The German feels that the winger, who is already unhappy about his lack of first team football this season, may see his chances of playing reduced even further under Guardiola next year. Commenting on the situation, Hitzfeld explained his view that "Robben does not fit into the philosophy of Guardiola", adding: "I think Robben will leave Bayern in the summer."

Big spending Turkish Super Lig side Galatasaray have already cast admiring glances at Robben, who has a contract with Bayern Munich until 2015. If Robben were to leave for the Turkish club, he would team up with Dutch international team-mate Wesley Sneijder, as well as the recently signed Ivorian striker Didier Drogba, whose shootout penalty consigned Bayern Munich to defeat in last year’s Champions League final.

While moulding the team to his own requirements will be necessary for Guardiola in order to succeed at Bayern Munich, the process could unsettle the current squad. This may result in the Spaniard’s first season in the Bundesliga being one of transition; an eventuality that could be regarded as a regression if the Bavarians do manage to complete the treble this campaign. However, the only way the Spaniard can eclipse the potentially heroic last hurrah of Jupp Heynckes is to replicate the long term success that he achieved at Barcelona, for which the 2011 FIFA World Coach of the Year will need every second of his three-year deal at the Allianz Arena.

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Published: Thursday, 4th Apr 2013