Jupp Heynckes is returning to coach FC Bayern München. What can we expect from the legendary caretaker?
On a Wednesday night, you are about to call it a day but tabloid Bild drops the bomb: Heynckes is back for the rest of the season. Your heart stops. You cannot believe what you have just read, yet you are fascinated by it. On Friday, kicker breaks the confirmation only for the club to validate it moments later.
Can his fourth stint in Munich be productive, and if so, to what extent?
First, let us acknowledge that there are reputational risks for Heynckes. Having won a treble in 2013 and gone out on a high, the 72 years old man has absolutely nothing to add to a fine career. Less than impressive results would not erase that legacy, but they could disappoint many. All Bayern fans should be aware of it.
Anybody who says that Heynckes’ return at the helm guarantees a treble should be more cautious. There are several reasons to believe that winning titles will be much more difficult this time around.
- Top players such as Manuel Neuer and Jérôme Boateng have injury histories that they did not have in 2013;
- Stars such as Thomas Müller and David Alaba are woefully out of form;
- The team’s central midfield is not as solid as it was when Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martínez conquered Europe;
- The defense is in shambles;
- Franck Ribéry is injured, and he was a shadow of his 2013 self anyway;
- Kingsley Coman does not look like the finished product;
- Arjen Robben is more inconsistent than he was before;
- And so on.
Getting the current squad to peak in eight months would be a miracle, making an impressive title run highly unlikely. By signing on the dotted line to return to the Bavarian dugout, Heynckes probably has to settle for less ambitious goals.
What we can expect
Cleaning up the current mess would be a fantastic job to begin with.
Although he has done wonders in Munich, Heynckes has never been credited for being a tactical genius, unlike coaches such as Pep Guardiola. Yet, he boasts a proven ability to organise players and figure out a system that is well adapted to a squad.
The work is cut out for him: make the defense more responsive when attackers run at it. Ensure that the central midfield is not as porous as it has been for the last year and a half. Inject dynamism in the attack so that it does not depend on individual brilliance to score goals. Defensive solidity and balance between attacking and defending phases would be awesome.
Ultimately, Heynckes could restore order, make the team contend for the Bundesliga title and retain a Champions League spot. If he gets that done, he can say “mission accomplished”. Anything more would be icing on the cake.
Heynckes’ most important asset when going in the dressing room for eight months is credibility. Clout. He has won it all. The club’s board trusts him enough to convince him to come out of retirement. No player will be able to blame him for poor performances unless he improbably shows that he lost his touch.
The way forward
Heynckes’ appointment may betray plans for the future. FC Bayern could have hired Thomas Tuchel, who is available, but they have chosen a caretaker to pave the way for the next long-term manager. Whether it is Julian Nagelsmann, Jürgen Klopp or anybody else remains to be seen. However, speculating any further would be silly.
We can, however, welcome Jupp Heynckes with open arms. Just 24 hours ago, his appointment seemed to be nothing but a pipe dream. Most Bayern fans secretly wished for him to return although many wondered why he would bother to do so, knowing that there is nothing to prove and nothing to gain.
Whatever. Heynckes has returned and we are happy that he is back.