Dubbed "old school" back in 2004, the quiet man of German football, Jupp Heynckes, remains a hugely sought-after, oft-snubbed coach. Don't expect answers on what comes after Bayern Munich, but Jupp knows what he's doing.
Schalke, Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid, Barcelona, or even Germany? There's no shortage of rumors about the future career of current Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes. It's a slightly strange state of affairs when you consider how keen Bayern were to emphasize that the veteran was going into a well-earned retirement when Spaniard Josep "Pep" Guardiola takes over on Munich's Säbener Strasse.
It took two days for Heynckes himself to respond, in his typically reserved but resolute manner. While measured, he certainly wasn't going to play Bayern ball.
"I would like to announce my decision myself," Heynckes said. "And there's another six months for that. I alone will decide when I'm retiring."
It was a sharp about-face after Bayern President Uli Hoeness said when announcing the coaching switch that he hoped Bayern's players would "give this great coach the kind of glorious swansong he deserves."
Hoeness was thus forced to adopt a more truthful tune, admitting "I believe [Heynckes] would have liked to serve another year," but saying he worried that the chance to snap up a coach like Guardiola might never have come again.
With Heynckes' reputation now soaring, the 67-year-old remains as evasive as offshore assets.
"You surely don't believe, if you please, that I'll talk to you about what I have planned after June 30," Heynckes told reporters a few days after Bayern smashed Guardiola's old club Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semifinals. "The rumor mill is churning, there are thousands of speculations."
"I know what I'm doing. For quite a while," Heynckes concluded.
He might just as easily have been talking about his day-to-day activities, not his future in football.
Heynckes has it in hand
Even amid a 50-year career spanning almost 1,500 matches as a player and coach - over 1,000 in the German Bundesliga alone - Heynckes might well leave Bayern after his most successful season of all.
Heynckes' career is as old as the Bundesliga itself, and he's rewritten the league's record books in this golden anniversary campaign. If Bayern can beat Stuttgart in the German Cup final, as they did 6-1 and 2-0 in the league this season, then a domestic double would be secure.
Perhaps the toughest test, Heynckes' bid to win the Champions League for the second time in his coaching career, doesn't seem beyond the former Borussia Mönchengladbach goal-getter either - despite a rather intriguing overlap with his eventual successor in Munich.
An open wound
"Please respect me and my work," a visibly irked Heynckes told journalists ahead of the first leg against Barcelona when asked if he would seek any advice from Barca's ex-coach Guardiola.
Another Bayern and German legend, Franz Beckenbauer, had initially made this suggestion. The "old school" coach - a description used by Schalke's then-manager Rudi Assauer to explain his decision to sack Heynckes back in 2004 - said he'd look to his own contemporaries for advice in any case.
"If I wanted to call someone up, I'd choose Johann Cruyff, because he's the man who invented the Barcelona system," Heynckes told Sport 1, albeit only after saying "but I don't need that anyway."
It's not Heynckes' style to lose his cool in public or attack anybody, but this consistently passive-aggressive approach to his being put out to pasture speaks volumes from so quiet a coach. Players confirm that he has a temper away from the spotlight; a rejuvenated Franck Ribery says Heynckes has "a big heart," but will also "dole out the odd slap." Toni Kroos, twice a player under Heynckes at Leverkusen and Bayern, recalled that he once came back from holiday "a couple of kilos overweight," later saying to himself: "with him, you will not make that mistake again!"
Three stints, three titles, two rescues, two boots
Should Heynckes feel at all betrayed by his old friend, and foe, Hoeness, it's easy to understand why.
Heynckes left his beloved Borussia Mönchengladbach to take up the Bayern post, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles with the club. After the departure of a string of stars and a disastrous start to the 1991/2 season, then-commercial manager Hoeness sacked Heynckes and replaced him with Soren Lerby.
Despite a move Hoeness, who had at least a hand in the weakening of Bayern's squad, later described as his "biggest mistake," the pair eventually buried the hatchet. Heynckes came out of retirement to rescue Munich in perhaps their darkest hour, after the failed clash of egos between high-profile coach Jürgen Klinsmann and the famously controlling Bayern establishment.
After more than two years off, he jumped back into the job for the five final matches in 2009, winning four of them and salvaging second place for Bayern as an interim coach.
Once more unto the Bayern breach
His appetite for football rekindled, Heynckes went off to Bayer Leverkusen, while the Bavarians and Hoeness embarked on their next doomed mind-meld project. Two tense seasons with Louis van Gaal - especially when it came to transfer policy - left the Bayern squad threadbare and Borussia Dortmund on top of the Bundesliga tree.
Again, Bayern turned to Heynckes; and after one year rebuilding the squad, he's put the Bavarians emphatically back where they feel they belong. This season's high-scoring football is perhaps unsurprising from a man who remains Germany's third-most prolific striker of all time, with 220 career goals in the Bundesliga alone and four titles at Gladbach in the 1970s.
By comparison, his coaching career has been more patchy. In nearly a decade at the helm of his home club Gladbach, Heynckes never secured the Bundesliga salad bowl, earning himself the nickname "champion without a title." And in Frankfurt he's persona non grata after an irreconcilable falling out with three key players, who then left, effectively dismantled a top German side of the early 1990s.
But Heynckes often faced the boot even at his highest coaching ebbs. Perhaps his finest achievement was his Champions League title with Real Madrid in 1998. After that, he was ousted for the highly-touted outgoing Dutch national coach Guus Hiddink - with Real seemingly seeking a fresh, famous face. It's a situation that the oldest coach ever to win a Bundesliga title is now reliving; but don't expect Heynckes to quit until he's ready. Just consider his response to the mooted offer of a consolation prize at Bayern, a spot on the supervisory board.
"After 50 years as a player and a coach, I will not become a functionary. That's not my world."