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.
After 93 minutes of fast-paced action between the two giants of Germany, and the world this season, Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund by the final score of 2-1 to hoist the most sought after cup in European club football: The Champions League trophy. From the first whistle, the Bundesliga rivals were locked-in to attack each others’ defenses in the hopes of scoring first and setting the tone in the stunningly massive Wembley Stadium in London.
An insightful pass from Frenchman Franck Ribéry got to the perfectly cutting Dutchman Arjen Robben who, after dribbling just past the goalkeeper, while simultaneously dancing towards the baseline, was able to cross the ball in front of the goal and past a defender where Croatian Mario Mandžukić was waiting for the bouncing kick-in.
1-nil Bayern Munich in the 59th minute.
Just a mere nine minutes later, Bayern Munich defender Dante, in a very ill-advised move, raised his cleats to the stomach of Marco Reus. A rightly deserved penalty kick followed and Ilkay Gundogan of Borussia Dortmund guessed correctly and easily scored the equalizer for the men in black and yellow.
1-1 in the 68th minute.
In the closing moments of regulation, with the game level at 1-1, an advantageous pass into the feet of the offensively charging Ribéry at the top of the eighteen quickly evolved into a perfectly timed touch to the charging Robben. Following a touch of control, he split a couple defenders and led the goalie to his strong foot: his left. At the last gasp of his attack, Robben, ever so eloquently, cut the ball back across the goalie’s body for a slow-moving, yet definitive, game winning goal.
2-1 Bayern Munich in the 89th minute.
The goal was as stunning as a robin itself on a perfect spring day. If only for a moment, indulge me:
The primary color of Bayern Munich is red. A robin’s feathers are a red-orange mix. The beautiful game winning goal for Bayern Munich was scored by Dutchman (primary national team color is orange) Arjen Robben, who was wearing his club’s power color red.
There was terrific offense, with quite a few goals that were left just begging. The goalies made their share of spectacular saves. The defenses were tough and tireless as well. The 2013 UEFA Champions League Final saw the two best teams in Europe this season for the first-ever German versus German championship. Es war fantastisch!
After Bayern Munich’s record-breaking season, holding up the club’s fifth (third most all-time!) Champions League trophy was fitting. Jupp Heynckes will forever be a treasured name with the Bayern Munich faithful. This year’s win may very well set-up a Barcelona-like era of dominance in wins, trophies and admired style. But, regardless of the future, this year’s squad will be remembered and celebrated for many years to come, most especially throughout the second-half of 2013.
The final was redemption for Bayern Munich in the Champions League after recent final defeats in 2010 and 2012 (in Munich). The final was redemption and pure joy for Jupp Heynckes after being “forced” to retire at the conclusion of this season’s campaign. The final solidified a European and global power-shift of defining the world’s best club from Barcelona to Bayern Munich. The final officially relocated the capital of club soccer for the world from Catalonia to Munich.
Bayern Munich is the best football club Europe and the world. They are unequivocally #1.
Be sure to check out a video showing Bayern Munich’s go-ahead goal in the “Amazing” section of this blog!
After experiencing so many personal nightmares in the past three years with his club and national team, this was one of Man of the Match Robben’s reactions post-game.
“This is a dream,” he said.