A friend, through ups and downs
An era draws to a close on Friday as Uli Hoeneß says farewell to FC Bayern at the annual general meeting after 49 years as a player, general manager, director, president and head of the Supervisory Board. He has shaped the record German champions over decades like nobody else. As a farewell, we are looking at his relationship with FCB in our series 'A life dedicated to FC Bayern'.
Looking at Uli Hoeneß' 49 years at FC Bayern, there were many highs but also some lows. Nevertheless, one guiding theme among the ups and downs of his life has always been friendship. Jupp Heynckes can probably describe better than anybody else how it is to have ties to Uli Hoeneß beyond work.
"Friendship mustn't be a one-way street," the 74-year-old says. "There must be mutual returns. And you must trust one another. I trust Uli and vice versa. I know he'll always be there for me, in bad times too. We've gone through all highs and lows together. I like Uli Hoeneß as a character, as a person. And I think parts of the public have an image of him that doesn't correspond to reality."
Heynckes and Hoeneß were part of the West Germany team that won the 1972 European Championship and then the World Cup two years later. After their playing careers, Hoeneß signed Heynckes as FC Bayern coach a total of four times. Heynckes often stepped in as a friendly turn. Among other things, he won the Bundesliga title four times with Bayern, the crowning glory being the 2012/13 season when Bayern sealed the only treble in the club's history.
Over the decades, Hoeneß and Heynckes moulded players like Lothar Matthäus, Stefan Reuter, Olaf Thon, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben. "Uli invested all his thought, all his power in his work. It was a vocation, it was passion," says Heynckes. "FC Bayern means everything to him. He was and is the brain, heart and soul of this club. FC Bayern's DNA is Uli's DNA."
The two friends have never had a real quarrel, but Heynckes knows how Hoeneß can react in the heat of an argument. "When he acts for FC Bayern he hardly knows any friends, you must know that," the longstanding head coach admitted, but he does not hold it against Hoeneß that the latter stubbornly tried to persuade him to stay coach two years ago. "It was futile, but that's Uli Hoeneß. He presses all the buttons when something's important to him. It doesn't happen that often that somebody resists."
Heynckes says Hoeneß is soft at heart, but what angers him most? "If you twist the facts. If you make personal attacks that aren't correct. He takes it very seriously," the 74-year-old says. "In private he's a very sensitive person."
Heynckes thinks Hoeneß' decision to stand down is a "very good and wise decision. His legacy is that even though FC Bayern looked back on a great history when he took over as general manager, he turned the club into a global player. Today FC Bayern is famous all over the world. You wouldn't believe how many letters I get from young people, students from China, Australia, Korea, South America, Russia... it's incredible. Uli has dedicated his life to the club. He's the most successful manager in football worldwide, and beforehand he was a world-class player. A textbook career."
On question remains: whose name can be celebrated better? After all, the fan chant for Heynckes ("Jupp Jupp Jupp!") is legendary. Heynckes smiles: "Uli Uli Uli – that sounds much better. Uli is a much nicer name than Jupp."
Jupp Heynckes' Hoeneß moment
"I think the happiest moment in Uli Hoeneß' career as an official was the moment we won the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in 2013. We all knew he was threatened with time in prison because of his tax affair. The year before we had lost the 'Finale dahoam' – and then we had this great, highly emotional triumph. I saw Uli in the stands, he was incredibly delighted but still soberly accepted the congratulations. It was a moment of intense happiness when we embraced."
"It was also typical of his club – and of Uli – to bounce back. After the 'Finale dahoam' we were obsessed with success, I'd never seen it to this extent at a club. And Uli's motto has never been to bury his head in the sand. He's always impressed me because he led from the front. I've rarely seen such a hardworking man, full of energy, power and optimism. He's an optimistic person, otherwise he couldn't have been so successful."