Back to the future: Jupp Heynckes' return means Bayern Munich are still in limbo
By appointing Jupp Heynckes, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness believes he has found a short-term solution to his puzzle. Mia San Mia is one thing, but DW's Matt Ford thinks Bayern are still in limbo.
Uli Hoeness had a puzzle to solve.
Carlo Ancelotti was supposed to remain in charge of Bayern Munich until the end of the season but Bayern's worst Bundesliga start in years convinced the bosses to act. Humiliation at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League was the final straw.
Seven games in, five points behind Borussia Dortmund in the league and dissenting voices in the dressing room. Where would Bayern go now? The answer: back to the future.
Heynckes would enter his fourth stint as coach of Bayern
Hoeness' preferred candidate was – and perhaps remains – Julian Nagelsmann. A Bavarian by birth and the youngest Bundesliga coach in history, he would encapsulate Hoeness' vision for the future of Bayern Munich, brimming with organic, homegrown Mia San Mia. But, at just 30, would he have been too old? Either way, Hoffenheim likely wouldn't let their head coach go in the middle of the season.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern's chairman, on the other hand, is said to have preferred Thomas Tuchel – a tactically astute, modern coach who won the cup with Borussia Dortmund and who was once described by Pep Guardiola as "top, top, top!" Indeed, the pair reportedly met for dinner dates which ended with the two coaches discussing tactics by moving salt shakers and pepper mills around the table.
Read more: Should Tuchel or Nagelsmann take over?
Candidates: Thomas Tuchel (l) and Julian Nagelsmann (r)
So when it emerged that Hoeness had revealed Bayern's decision to Guardiola this week, a choice which had the Catalan's approval, one could have easily assumed that choice was Tuchel. But Hoeness had also reportedly spoken to Michael Zorc and the Borussia Dortmund sporting director is likely to have highlighted the personal issues which led to Tuchel's dismissal from the Ruhr club.
A direct conference call with Tuchel in which the ex-BVB and Mainz coach insisted on discussing sporting technicalities rather than providing a direct "yes" seemingly left both parties unconvinced. Hoeness allegedly was unwilling to appoint a coach with no previous connection to Bayern given the current sporting crisis.
An old friend
That explains the decision, revealed late on Wednesday night by German tabloid Bild, to coax 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes out of retirement for his fourth spell in charge of Bayern.
Heynckes previously coached Bayern from 1987-91, in 2009 on an interim basis after the sacking of Jürgen Klinsmann and between 2011 and 2013. He is an old friend of Hoeness and represents precisely what Bayern currently lack: identity, familiarity, authority and success. In short: more Mia San Mia, Hoeness' holy grail.
Unlike Tuchel, who left Dortmund under a cloud of dressing room unrest, Heynckes is a proven man manager likely able to repair the rift which has appeared between the northern European contingent around Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Müller and a Hispanic fraction centered on Thiago, James Rodriguez and Arturo Vidal. He knows the former four from his last spell and also speaks fluent Spanish following time in Spain.
Unlike Nagelsmann, he brings immense experience – he took charge of Bayern for the first time in 1987, the year Nagelsmann was born! And while appointing Tuchel on a three-year deal may have seen Bayern miss their chance with Nagelsmann, Heynckes also represents an ideal temporary solution until Nagelsmann becomes available in the summer.
RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim - German football has changed
A new world
Since Heynckes retired to his lower Rhineland retreat on the opposite side of the country between Mönchengladbach and the Dutch border, Germany's football landscape has changed – thanks in large part to his successor Guardiola.
A high-pressing, rapid transitioning style of football has seen Nagelsmann take Hoffenheim into Europe for the first time while RB Leipzig finished their first Bundesliga season as runners-up.
This is the cauldron of fire in which Heynckes will now be re-baptized, with Bayern set to face RB twice (in league and cup) plus Borussia Dortmund in the next 20 days. Having been out of the game for four years, is the septuagenarian not out of touch with modern football? The same question was asked in 2011 and he went on to win the treble.
Off the pitch at least, Uli Hoeness will believe he has solved his puzzle - for now. Should Bayern close the gap on Dortmund and then hire Nagelsmann, his decision will be vindicated. But the board has fewer ladders to climb and the snakes are multiplying.