Ottmar Hitzfeld – The Man Who Would Be King: Part Three – The Manager
So, after our exploration of Ottmar Hitzfeld as a reputable striker in his hay-day, comes the next installment of our look at the Swiss national football team manager – and definately the pasrt of his footballing career that has cemented his reputation of one of the greatest footballing figures of all time.
I bring you…Ottmar Hitzfeld – the manager.
Having ended his stellar striking career, Hitzfeld turned to become a professional coach and got his first break where he left of – in central Switzerland.
In the same year that he had announced his retirement from professional football at FC Luzern, Hitzfeld hopped over to FC Zug to take the reigns at the club the following season. However, Hitzfeld would conquer the Alpine nation, for the second time, when he moved to FC Aarau the following season.
Aarau, who had finished 10th during the 1983-4 season opted to hire Hitzfeld, mostly because of his ‘big-name’ and of the relative success that he had brough to (the now defunct) FC Zug – who were not a top-division side. Against all the odds, Hitzfeld enjoyed a remarkable season with Aarau, finishing second in the top division (only 4 points behind Servette Genève). The faith that the Aarau management had in Hitzfeld had paid off, as during his four-year stay, Hitzfeld had transformed the team, and under the German won, to-date, their only Swiss Cup:
Next up for Hitzfeld would be his biggest challenge yet – taking the managerial reigns at Grasshoppers Club Zürich – Switzerland’s most successful club. Following the departure of Austrian coach, Kurt Jara, who had led GCZ to the league title and Swiss Cup, expectations were high of Hitzfeld – but, true to form, Hitzfeld once again wove his magic. Under the Hitzfeld regime, GCZ went on to win back-to-back league titles in the 1989-90 and 1990-1 seasons. By the time Hitzfeld left the club, he had not only gained legendary status at Grasshoppers, but a reputation as a successful coach:
All of this attention in Switzerland for Hitzfeld eventually spread back to his home country. In the 1991-2 season, German heavyweights, Borussia Dortmund had unveiled Hitzfeld as their new manager. The most prestigous club yet in Hitzfeld’s managerial career. The 1990-1 season saw Dortmund finish a dissapointing 10th, from 4th the previous season, and so changes were brought to the club – starting with Hitzfeld.
Hitzfeld stayed on as Dortmund manager for 6 years. During which he was able to get Dortmund to the 1993 UEFA Cup final (eventually losing to Juventus of Italy). However, Hitzfeld ONCE AGAIN proved to be a manager with seemingly magical powers as he brought the Bundesliga title back to Dortmund after 32 years in 1995 – and again preformed ANOTHER BACK-TO-BACK achievement, winning the Bundesliga the following season:
Though Hitzfeld’s mighty Dortmund failed to recapture the title the following season, finish third, Hitzfeld had done the unthinkable. In the 1996-7 season, Dortmund had reached the final of the UEFA Champions League where they would face the team that had ended Hitzfeld’s first chance of winning European Silverware – FC Juventus….but this time, Hitzfeld’s Dortmund proved too strong, and won European football’s biggest prize:
Hitzfeld had beat the team that he had lost to earlier, winning the better trophy in the end – in addition to this, Dortmund also went on to win the Intercontinental Cup.
Hitzfeld’s exploits had now made him the hottest managerial property in all of Europe, and just like in Switzerland, now Germany’s most successful club came knocking on Hitzfeld’s door: FC Bayern München.
What a fairy tale…the striker from FC Lörrach had now come to take the helm at one of the biggest football clubs in, not only Europe, but the World! Would Hitzfeld’s magic run out now? Surely!..but…as Hitzfeld had proved time and time again, he delivered success at every hurdle. In his first season as Bayern coach, Hitzfeld led the Bavarians to the 1999 Bundesliga trophy, and the UEFA Champions League final (which they would later infamously lose to Manchester United). However, not to be put down by the loss on Europe’s grandest of stages, Bayern once again recaptured the league title, and German Cup in 2000:
…and again in 2001, the Bundesliga trophy was Bayern’s. However, the 2000-1 season would be more famou, and more meaningful to Hitzfeld, and Bayern fans as it was the season that Hitzfeld finally did for Bayern what he did for Dortmund – win the UEFA Champions League:
A penalty shoot-out win vs. Valencia in the final cemented Hitzfeld’s name as one of the greatest managers in the history of football – winning the Champions League with two different clubs – an unmatched feat! Hitzfeld had reached immortality – he also earned a second Intercontinental Cup winners’ medal that year, and his second ‘World Manager of the Year’ award following his exploits with Dortmund in 1997.
The 2002/3 season fell victim to Hitzfeld’s mighty Munich as they picked up another league title:
The end of his Bayern days were marred with less glamourous football, leading to his departure in 2004, but that didn’t stop FC Bayern fans from voting him as the ‘Greatest Ever FC Bayern München Coach’ in 2005.
Yet, Hitzfeld would later return to Bayern in 2007 for one last hurrah…eventually landing them another league title in 2008, as well as another German Cup:
Hitzfeld, now 59 felt that it was now time to end his Bayern spell, for the second time, and at the end of the championship winning team, left Bayern…to take on new challenges…
…and what better way to begin his next challenge by returning to the country that had helped him so much along his footballing career…Switzerland…
Next article: The Swiss National Team
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