Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Heynckes not bitter over Real exit
Jupp Heynckes provides living proof that winning the Champions League is not always enough to satisfy the demanding hierarchy at Real Madrid, yet the current Bayern Munich coach insists his upcoming semi-final battle with his former employer is no revenge mission.
In a season when the most significant game in European club football is being staged in Bayern's own Allianz Arena, Heynckes says his motivation to reach the Champions League final stems from events much closer to home and he is in confident mood ahead of his touchline battle with fellow European Cup winner Jose Mourinho.
In an exclusive chat with ESPNsoccernet's Nick Bidwell, Heynckes claims Bayern's 'once in a generation' chance to win club football's biggest prize on home soil will inspire his underdogs to rise to the challenge against Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates.
Do you have extra motivation to win this tie as you are up against the side that sacked you back in 1998? Jupp Heynckes: Not at all. For me this tie is not in any sense a matter of personal revenge. I had the honour of being Real's coach in 1997-98 and was lucky enough to lead them to victory in the Champions League. Naturally I was very disappointed that the final against Juventus turned out to be my last game in charge, but that's football, that's Real.
Describe what it is like to work in the unique atmosphere at Real Madrid. JH: It's a difficult place to work in the long-term. There you have to win, win, win; play with attacking style; keep the local media on board; and have a good relationship with the president. That's a lot of ifs and buts and, as we only finished fourth in the league, I had to pay the price.
Do you not think you deserved a second chance after winning the Champions League? JH: Well, that success only partially restored the balance, even though it will always be one of my most satisfying moments in football. Real aren't known for their stability. In his first spell there, Fabio Capello only lasted a season. Jorge Valdano and Guus Hiddink didn't stick around either. It's what happens at the club.
How do you assess the current Real Madrid side? JH: We are not simply facing a set of players in all-white in this semi-final. No, what we're really up against is a brand - a special history. Real have a love affair with the Champions League and pull out all the stops to maintain their prestigious record in the competition.
Do you feel you need to establish a first-leg lead to have a chance of reaching the final? JH: This may be true. On European nights at the Bernabeu, there is a special atmosphere. Real adore it when the second-leg is at home. No matter how the opening 90 minutes goes, they always find another gear or two in the home tie. They believe in miracles there. They don't care if they are two or three down, they love a challenge. This is what we have to counter and that means being on top of our game throughout the semi.
Are you an admirer of Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho? JH: He knows exactly what it takes to win the Champions League after leading both FC Porto and Inter to the trophy. Neither side was the most thrilling technically, but they were winning machines, brilliantly organised at the back, full of spirit and grit and absolutely clinical at taking their chances.
So is this Real Madrid side lacking a bit of the fantasy factor? JH: The current Real side is a different type of XI to his other teams because it is packed from top to bottom with superstars. However, you can see the same Mourinho signature: great organisation, tactical flexibility and 'us against the rest of the world' mentality.
Are you surprised his special methods are working at Real Madrid? JH: Not really. When you add the Mourinho framework to the wonderful players Real have - Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil, Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos - then you have a winning machine. That said, I don't see this semi-final as coach versus coach. The players on the field are the ones who count and one step away from a final. The winners will be those who best hold their nerve.
Real Madrid are favourites to win this tie, so how can you upset the odds? JH: With all respect to FC Basel and Marseille, our opponents in earlier rounds, Real are a quite different proposition altogether. They have top-class individuals in every part of the pitch and a clever and calculating coach. If we are not firing on all cylinders, we will not go through. It's as simple as that.
With the Champions League final set to be staged in Munich this year, does that put extra pressure on your team to succeed? JH: Everyone is desperate to reach this particular final and we have a unique opportunity. I believe we have just as many talented individuals and genuine match winners as Real because, in Gomez, Robben, Ribery and Muller, we have more than our fair share of attacking weapons. I'm convinced we can put their back-line under pressure.
Can your players handle the pressure of such a high-profile game? JH: I'm not at all concerned about the pressure generated by this match. We've all the experience and strong characters we need. Real are the sort of high-profile side which makes some opponents reach for the autograph book. I assure you we at Bayern will not be doing that. We're a top European team in our right and have a pedigree of our own to take care of.
Does that fact that the football fans around the world are expecting a Real Madrid v Barcelona final inspire your team to succeed? JH: Hopefully this is the case. Nearly everyone assumes the final will be an all-Spanish affair and, to my mind, this has to be an advantage both for Bayern and Chelsea in the other tie. Such is the intense rivalry between Barca and Real they are already thinking about meeting one another in Munich next month and, if you take your eye off the ball, football has a habit of tripping you up. If I had to guess, I'd predict one surprise finalist and I naturally hope it is Bayern.