“Was that nice? You had something to build up and then knock down. When it’s all quiet in politics, football has to produce some controversy for you, especially now even the Pope has gone.”
Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes was clearly not impressed on Sunday in Hoffenheim after his storm-in-a-tea cup row with Borussia Dortmund rival Jurgen Klopp had played out in the media here. With things relatively quiet on Germany’s political front and following the resignation of German Pope Benedict XVI, the media gratefully sank their teeth into some drummed up controversy courtesy of some ill-advised Klopp comments.
After Bayern’s 1-0 German Cup quarter-final win at home to holders and arch-rivals Dortmund last Wednesday broke their winless streak against Borussia, it was only a matter of time before a quote from either camp hit the headlines. Club president Uli Hoeness, never one to underplay any Bayern victory, poured some oil on the fire by boasting heartily that Munich had verified their position as the best club in Germany with the win.
Unusually for the media-savvy Klopp, he then stirred up the rivalry by suggesting Bayern have copied some of Dortmund ideas. ”At the moment, it is like what the Chinese are doing in industry: they look at what others do, copy them, and then with more money and players follow a similar path,” Klopp told journalists. ”It’s not long before you’re successful again.”
To be fair to Bayern, it’s hard to follow Klopp’s ‘copycats’ argument. Dortmund have dazzled in recent years with their pressing game, while Bayern have blown away all rivals in the Bundesliga this season with their own brand of pressure football.
With Franck Ribery and Thomas Müller spraying crosses in from the wing, Mario Mandzukic scoring for fun and Toni Kroos growing in stature, Bayern have taken their game to a new level, albeit in a bid to finally beat Dortmund. Despite Borussia cleaning up last season with the league and cup double, leaving Bayern empty-handed for the second year running, relations between Heynckes and Klopp, 22 years his junior, had always been cordial. Until now.
Although Heynckes refused to admit he was annoyed by Klopp’s comments, when asked for a reaction, his ever-reddening cheeks at a Bayern press conference told a different story. ”Bayern have been round a bit longer than Jurgen Klopp has been a coach and we have always had our own style of play,” said the 67-year-old.
“It’s important to show how big you are in both defeat and victory,” he added after Bayern broke their six-match winless streak against Dortmund in the cup game. Now anyone from the Bayern camp dishing out advice on how to be a good loser is a bit rich, given the smarting which came from Bavaria after Dortmund walked off with the league and cup double last season.
While Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Ruemmenigge and, despite his initial outburst, Hoeness, are doing their best not to gloat, you can bet your last bratwurst they are both basking in last Wednesday’s win. It was Bayern’s first league or cup victory over Dortmund since February 2010, ignoring the meaningless pre-season Supercup win, but realising a media storm was building, Klopp quickly took the sensible option of apologising.
“The last thing I want to do is criticise a renowned colleague. Jupp Heynckes is an excellent coach,” Klopp told German broadcaster ARD before Dortmund’s 3-1 home Bundesliga win against Hanover 96 on Saturday. ”If he thinks what I said refers to him, them I want to apologise. So if you’re listening to this, sorry Jupp.” He later told German Sky: “I just got chatting during one of the 100,000 press conferences we had in the last eight days.
“I do not begrudge Heynckes his success. We have no right to expect to be the first.”
With Bayern still to face Borussia in Dortmund on May 4, Heynckes quickly seized the olive branch offered, grateful to be able to finally silence the questions over what has been dubbed the “China Debate”.
“Yes, of course,” he said after Bayern’s laboured 1-0 win at Hoffenheim Sunday, when asked if he accepted Klopp’s apology. ”It should now be crossed off, it’s all been said and done now.”
That remains to be seen…
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