For one last time, on a sunny yet lukewarm Sao Paulo evening, Ottmar Hitzfeld was walking up and down the touch line, huffing and puffing his cheeks as his Switzerland side were trying to cause an upset against Argentina in a yesterday’s last-16 clash.
It was almost reminiscent of that famous late May evening in 1997 where Hitzfeld guided Borussia Dortmund to their first Champions League title as they defeated the much favoured Juventus in Berlin.
Moments of thoughtfulness were entwined with spells of passion and determination, even in the last two minutes of extra time when his resilient Switzerland side were trying to score an equaliser after Angel Di Maria had given Argentina a 1-0 lead in the 118th minute mark.
It was a cruel blow for a man who for the past six years has turned Switzerland from something of a joke team, into a side littered with unprecedented talent.
He even urged his goalkeeper Diego Benaglio who for the past 118 times had kept his side in the fixture by superbly denying Lionel Messi on numerous occasions, to go up, and almost provided an assist for Blerim Dzemalli, but the post came between the midfielder and a well-deserved equaliser.
The 65-year-old, born in the rural village of Lörrach, close to the Swiss border, like his resilient army of red and white, gave his all right to the final whistle, and it should come as no coincidence that this man is called the General in his native Germany.
For every team that he has presided over during his highly successful 29-year spell as a manager he has given his everything and there is no wonder that he is not only loved within Germany and Switzerland, but indeed all over the world.
Indeed, there is often a huge debate between both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich fans over which club Hitzfeld is better known at, and more passionate about.
In reality he will forever be a legend at both clubs, and at this moment in time there is a reason why he is considered as the best coach that both sides have ever had in their entire history.
Having joined Borussia Dortmund in 1991, he was able to take a mid-table side who until then had lived for the past twenty years in the shadow of Bayern Munich and Hamburg, and transform them into a team blessed with youth, experience and talent.
Eye for talent
He was responsible for bringing in the likes of Swiss striker Stephane Chapuisat, and Germany internationals Matthias Sammer and Andreas Moller to the club, and convinced the Westfalenstadion outfit to spend more money on their youth set-up.
Indeed, this particular demand seemed to pay off when 20 year old Lars Ricken, fresh from the academy scored a memorable winner against Juventus in the 1997 Champions League final, 16 seconds after coming on as a substitute.
The transformation was rapid, and within just six years, Hitzfeld and his army of yellow and black bandits not only dominated the Bundesliga, but indeed international club football.
His transformation of Borussia Dortmund was a breath of fresh air to the Bundesliga, and broke the Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen monopoly which had gripped German football for the past ten years.
Perhaps it was something of an insult that the club promoted him to the position of Sports Director after he reportedly lost the faith of several people in the team, and swiftly left the club with two Bundesliga championships and two DFB Pokal titles amongst the Champions League trophy to his name.
Having been impressed with what Hitzfeld had accomplished during his six year spell at Borussia Dortmund, perhaps it is not surprising that he was named as Bayern Munich manager, months after leaving his post at BVB.
If the former West Germany striker was considered a legend at Borussia Dortmund, then he is seen as a god in the eyes of everyone close to Bayern Munich, including both fans, players, and managers alike.
During his two spells as the manager of Bayern Munich in the late 1990’s and early to mid-2000’s he pretty much won everything there was to win, with the UEFA Cup, now re-branded as the Europa League, the only title which he wasn't able to lift a high.
It is almost impossible to walk through the famous Bayern Munich museum at the Allianz Arena without both seeing and hearing what impact he had on the club.
During his time at the club he won a total of 14 trophies, including five Bundesliga and three DFB Pokal titles to accompany the Champions League trophy that he won at the end of the 2000-01 campaign.
Indeed, just like Jupp Heycknes thirteen years later, he was able to put the dramatic injury time defeat to Manchester United in the 1999 Champions League final and used the upset to give his team the motivation to win a double the next season.
To this very day one apart from being sent to prison for tax evasion, one of former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness’ biggest mistakes was to sack Hitzfeld after he failed to win any trophies in the 2002-03 campaign.
Instead of developing even further, in which Hitzfeld wished the club to do, the Allianz Arena outfit took a step back and were only once again transformed into the team they are today when Louis Van Gaal became manager in 2009.
Perhaps there is a good reason why he was voted by the majority of loyal Bayern Munich fans who picked Hitzfeld ahead of demi-god Franz Beckenbauer as the greatest coach in the history of the club.
Indeed, he bows out of the game having also changed the face of football in Switzerland, having created a multi-national team united in playing under one flag.
When the General took over from Jakob Kuhn in the days following Switzerland’s group stage exit from Euro 2008 on home soil he put more emphasis into youth and has developed talents such as Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Granit Xhaka.
The General has laid down his weapons for one last time, but we should all spare the time to give one final salute to one of the greatest managers in the history of the game
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