In a lengthy interview with SportBild (via ESPN), former Bayern Munich manager Louis Van Gaal backed Jupp Heynckes to lead the club to another treble this season. Van Gaal accumulated an overall record of 59 wins, 18 draws, and 19 losses with Bayern, guiding them to the Bundesliga title in 2010 and the Champions League final that same year, which they ultimately lost 2-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan. A run of poor results in the beginning of the 2010-2011 campaign brought about Van Gaal’s sacking.
Bayern on course with Heynckes
Van Gaal was replaced by Heynckes in the spring of 2011 and Heynckes went on to collect the infamous treble in the 2012-2013 season. Van Gaal is confident that Heynckes is the right man to steer Bayern to yet another treble this season, and had no shortage of praise for his successor:
It’s unbelievable what Jupp is doing again. The management team of [CEO Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge and [president Uli] Hoeness did the right thing and put faith in his experience.
Despite Heynckes being set in his decision to hang up his managerial boots come the end of the season, Van Gaal still sees him as the perfect fit for Bayern, more so than any of the other candidates that are being touted to take over next season:
I don’t see any young German trainer like [Julian] Nagelsmann and [Thomas] Tuchel in this role. Bayern is a top club that isn’t easy to manage. Heynckes has showed everybody again what he is capable of. He can win the Bundesliga, the German Cup and even the Champions League. He hasn’t lost his qualities from the Treble-winning season just because he has got older.
Butting heads with Uli Hoeness
Van Gaal also acknowledged that he didn’t have the best working relationship with club president Uli Hoeness during his tenure as manager. The two had several disagreements over Van Gaal’s managerial philosophies, which ultimately were reflected in Bayern’s play, especially during his second season in charge.
Van Gaal mentioned Phlipp Lahm to highlight the extent of one such major disagreement:
Hoeness and I had a massive argument. Hoeness wanted [Philipp] Lahm to continue to play on the left, but history has proved me right. Lahm won the Champions League and a World Cup at right-back.
Thomas Müller, whom Van Gaal famously introduced to the starting lineup at a young age, was another bone of contention between the two:
It was also similar with Thomas Müller! When I began to always put the talent that Hermann Gerland had recommended in the starting lineup, my wife Truus had to listen to Hoeneß tell her in the chairman's suite, “Your husband selected the wrong team again.”
Their assessments of David Alaba differed similarly. Van Gaal showed continued faith in the left-back despite Hoeness's preference for Lahm in the position:
It was the same with David Alaba. His mistake in the final minute caused Nuremberg’s equaliser and also led to my dismissal. Today, Alaba is one of the greatest talents Bayern possess.
Van Gaal's name has also occasionally been mentioned as a long-shot candidate for a comeback at Bayern next season, but he squashed any such speculation. Van Gaal has returned to several teams in the past, but he cannot see himself back at Bayern:
Bayern? I don’t think so. As long as Uli Hoeness is at the club, I will not work there again.
The feeling from Hoeness is undoubtedly mutual.
Team mentality vs favoritism
Van Gaal also criticized Hoeness for putting his favorites over a “team first” mentality, suggesting that some players were prioritized over others both on and off the pitch. Van Gaal cited Franck Ribery in particular:
Uli Hoeness has a special relationship with certain players, talking regularly to them and fighting their cause, like [Franck] Ribery, for example, who according to Herr Hoeness must always play. That’s not good for a coach, in my opinion. The team is the most important thing and not an individual player. Hoeness and I differ in this respect.
The comments are particularly interesting in light of the unresolved issue of Ribery’s future at Bayern and especially his place in the starting lineup, now that his chief competitor Kingsley Coman has been sidelined by injury. Will Heynckes start Ribery regularly, despite his sometimes stunningly poor form?
Schweinsteiger and Mourinho
Van Gaal also reopened the old wound concerning the treatment of club legend Bastian Schweinsteiger by Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. According to Van Gaal, United were expecting more than what they got in Schweinsteiger, but the player in no way deserved the treatment he received from Mourinho, who indecorously banished him to the reserves:
Of course Schweinsteiger was older, but not too old. His body, however, couldn't keep up with the high demands of the Premier League. Bayern sold him to us as a fit player, but he was actually physically washed up. But Schweini didn’t deserve the way Mourinho treated him after me. That explains, though, what the situation with Schweinsteiger was. It’s a shame, because he is a player like Luis Enrique, Mark van Bommel or Philipp Lahm. They’re guys who are always present on the pitch.
Fortunately for Schweinsteiger, he found a happy ending after all with his wife Anna Ivanovic and the Chicago Fire in the United States. Van Gaal has been without a club since he was dismissed by United in 2016.
Read the full interview online (in German) here.