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Final against former club

Hitzfeld: My career has come full circle

Bayern’s most recent German Cup meeting with Borussia Dortmund is now so long ago that Ottmar Hitzfeld picked the team in yellow and black, but his last final as a club coach will be spent orchestrating the men in red against his former club. “It’s my dream final. It means I’ve come full circle,” the future Switzerland boss declared ahead of his fourth Cup final as a coach. Should Bayern win, Hitzfeld would join Karl-Heinz Feldkamp, Hennes Weisweiler, Udo Lattek and Otto Rehhagel in leading teams to victory on three occasions.

The General guided Bayern to Cup glory in 2000 and 2003, but his exceptional Bundesliga career – Saturday could provide him with his 16th German trophy, edging him ahead of current joint record-holder Udo Lattek (15) - began in Dortmund, where he took the reins in 1991 after learning the ropes in Switzerland.

Success in the hot seat

”When I arrived, Dortmund were relegation material and the coach’s job was the hottest of hot seats,” he recalls, but he soon turned the club’ fortunes around. “We were there or thereabouts right from the start,” he pointed out, “we were only four minutes away from winning the league.”

Borussia topped the table until the 86th minute on the last day of the season, but Guido Buchwald headed Stuttgart to victory against Leverkusen and VfB took the title on goal difference. “At the time I thought: oh bugger, now you’ll probably never win the title in your entire life.”

No room for sentiment

Hitzfeld could hardly have been more wrong. He led Dortmund to the championship in 1995 and 1996, topping that with a sensational Champions League triumph in 1997. After a year as BVB Director of Sport, he took the top job at Bayern, where he was to preside over one of the most successful periods in the club’s long history, collecting the World Club Cup, the Champions League, four Bundesliga titles, the German Cup twice and the League Cup on four occasions.

Hitzfeld could still claim three more trophies in his last couple of months with Munich, although the first would involve beating his former club, where he spent seven “unforgettable” years. “Dortmund is a part of my life, and part of my heart is still in Dortmund. I’m always a little bit emotional when I see the yellow and black jersey.” However, he insisted, there would be no room for sentiment on Saturday.

Bowing out with silverware

“In the final, I won’t be thinking about Dortmund, only about how to beat them and win the Cup,” he declared, “I’m a sportsman, so I play to win. You can’t be making allowances or showing sympathy.” Back in September 1992, Hitzfeld’s Dortmund knocked Bayern out of the Cup with a 5-4 win on penalties after a 2-2 draw in normal time. This Saturday, he is aiming for the opposite outcome, another sign of how the General has come full circle.