Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola.
These two football coaches have and do pace the sidelines with their own brand of suave, seriousness, calmness, intention and ingenious planning. Heynckes and Guardiola are different men from different countries with different styles and strategy, but are perfectly united by the same ambition and records of epic proportions, past and present.
But what precisely defines a global footballing/soccer champion in the modern era?
This is a fascinating, complex question to ponder, specifically regarding the perception of European football when compared to soccer in the United States. In Major League Soccer (MLS), the four championships/trophies competed for each season are perceived more so as individual conquests than as an all-or-nothing pursuit. It is not unusual for one team to win the Supporters’ Shield and another team to win the MLS Cup. Is it peculiar for one club to hoist the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy, but not the CONCACAF Champions League trophy? No.
Winning the Supporters’ Shield for the most points in the regular season and the MLS Cup is a tremendous achievement (6 times/TBD 18 years), but it is not the expected protocol. As a result, it is greatly celebrated when this occurs. In Europe, though, a legendary feat consists of winning at least three to four trophies, depending on certain qualifications for certain clubs. This could involve the German Cup, the Spanish Super Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, etc. Then, of course, there is the UEFA Champions League. For Europeans and fans around the world, this is their “grandaddy of them all” for club football/soccer.
Remaining in Europe, specifically Munich, Germany, the journey for another record-breaking season is well under way. The pressure is palpable. Fortunately for Guardiola and his men, the 2013/2014 campaign has been victorious with the injection of new formations and style of play. It even bears a striking resemblance to the 2012/2013 club in the standings.
14 games into the 34-game Bundesliga season, Bayern Munich (under Guardiola) is 12-2-0 (W-D-L) with 38 points and a positive goal differential of 25. At the conclusion of the 2012/2013 campaign, Bayern Munich (guided by Heynckes) had earned 91 points from a 29-4-1 record with an insane positive goal differential of 80. A quick calculation postulates a realistic replication of Bundesliga glory for Hollywood FC, considering the fact the team is playing more comfortably and confidently under its new management and head coach with each victory in all of its competitions, most notably the Champions League.
And the latter part of the last paragraph is the key phrase: “…in all competitions.” It seems like, in today’s football/soccer universe, that winning a top league in the world is not complete unless there is a sweeping of all competitions. There exists little oxygen for a league champion or champion of a single tournament to receive the appropriate congratulations and acclaim, unless it’s a one-in-a-million league or tournament kind of run.
In Europe, the requirements (not preferences) for true greatness are the league title, the country’s home tournament/Cup, their version of a Super Cup and the UEFA Champions League. This formula is structured on addition, not +/-. Is this fair? That’s debatable. However, while the standards are extraordinary, the opportunities are equally extraordinary. That’s a reality that’s not all bad for one magnificently unforgettable campaign.
One record-breaking/amazing/storybook/legendary season can elevate a club to eternal glory and prominence of epic proportions. Imagine if this happens two years in a row…or more. But make no mistake about it, it is extremely difficult to achieve such success in a season. The results on (and off) the field need to resemble virtual perfection.
Will Bayern Munich, through the leadership of Pep Guardiola, cap another unforgettable season with arms full of trophies?
That is still several months away from being determined and the challenges looming ahead are undeniably massive and treacherous. However, if they can continue to show an improving expertise in moving 11 men in wonderfully successful fashion and synchronization, then adding a few more prestigious titles to their shelves will seem academic.
Champions do tend to make the extraordinary look easy.
And it’s only at this point when the simple addition of multiple trophies becomes proof of something epic.