Heynckes heroics spells trouble for Guardiola at Bayern Munich
Even as Jupp Heynckes celebrated leading Bayern Munich to a record-breaking 23rd league title on Saturday night, he was being overshadowed by the man who will succeed him.
A 1-0 win at Frankfurt – Bayern’s 13th away win of 14 and also a record – left them 20 points clear with six games to play and made the Bavarian giants the quickest champions in Bundesliga history.
But almost inevitably, much of the talk was of the challenge awaiting Pep Guardiola when he arrives this summer and how Bayern can even reach new heights under his guidance. Yet in the first instance, the Spaniard would simply do well to match the achievements of the man he will replace.
Bayern have lost only once in the league all season, conceding 13 goals, and have won all 11 games since the winter break. And with the title wrapped up, they can now turn their attentions to the Champions League where they hold a 2-0 lead over Juventus from their quarter-final first leg, and the German Cup where a semi-final with Wolfsburg awaits.
The veteran Heynckes could yet walk away a treble winner.
While his first season back at the club ended in the disappointment of a Champions League final defeat to Chelsea and a domestic double for rivals Borussia Dortmund, the groundwork was done for what has so far been a sensational 2012/13 campaign. Heynckes has harnessed and improved a pool of young, hungry, talented players while making shrewd acquisitions in key areas.
Being Bayern, money hasn’t been in short supply, but it still has to be spent wisely and he has done that. Effectively replacing top-scorer Mario Gomez with Mario Mandzukic at the start of the season was a massive call, but a correct one, with the Croat a revelation this term.
Brazilian Dante has proved the signing of the season after being lured from Monchengladbach for a bargain fee, while Javi Martinez has started the process of repaying his lavish price tag after being signed from Athletic Bilbao.
Toni Kroos has become a star and David Alaba likewise, with the experienced boss giving him his chance following his return from a loan spell at Hoffenheim.
As well as identifying talent, Heynckes has consistently shown an ability to get the maximum out of his squad. He hasn’t been afraid to drop the big names, with Arjen Robben for one not seeing as much playing time as he might have liked.
With Heynckes in the twilight years of his coaching career you can’t blame Bayern for seizing the opportunity to recruit Guardiola. But for the celebrated ex-Barca boss the legacy of his predecessor is now double-edged.
On one hand Guardiola could barely have hoped to inherit a stronger, more ambitious group of players, while on the other he now has some act to follow.
Meanwhile, it is little surprise Heynckes is talking of extending his storied management career for at least another season. Even given his considerable past achievements and record of success, his stock has rarely been higher.