Heynckes magic works once more, as Bayern Munich beat PSG
Heynckes brings discipline back to Bayern after Ancelotti's more laissez-faire approach
Carlo Ancelotti looks like the kind of bubbly uncle that could be found working in Santa's grotto at this time of year.
Jupp Heynckes looks like the Grinch who stole Christmas.
But he's brought seasonal cheer back to Bayern Munich, after their redemptive 3-1 Champions League Group B win against Paris Saint-Germain yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Once more, the German side are shaped in their manager's image.
Under Ancelotti, they were easy-going and too easy to beat. They were also five points adrift in the Bundesliga.
Under Heynckes, they are rigid and determined.
They are now six points clear in the Bundesliga and savouring the sweetest revenge against the oligarchs' playthings from Paris.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Allianz Arena because Bayern Munich are beginning to look a lot like Heynckes.
In person, he can come across as a grumpy old man. On a training pitch, he really is a grumpy old man.
And yet, he's returned to a sport that apparently doesn't care for the elderly.
Pensioners are swiftly sent packing. No coaching for old men.
Following the recent spin on the managerial merry-go-round, the return of Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew and David Moyes has also triggered a debate over a perceived lack of imagination among club owners.
It's the same names, the same haggard faces and presumably the same tactics, supposedly highlighting either the paucity of options or the absence of any risk.
Bayern looked the most risk-averse of them all when they welcomed back Heynckes for a fourth stint in October.
He was happily retired. He was also 72.
More importantly, he had already joined the most exclusive sports club of all, whose members included Rocky Marciano, Annika Sorenstam, Pete Sampras and Eric Cantona. He had retired on top, a serial winner, with a unique Bayern Treble to his name and his legacy secure.
Like washed-up rock stars, what could he or Bayern possibly gain from putting the band back together for a fourth time?
Arjen Robben had the answer.
Brittle Bayern craved discipline.
They couldn't run against PSG in September and Ancelotti couldn't hide after that 3-0 Champions League defeat.
He was fired because the Germans weren't fit enough.
According to reports that were never disputed, Robben organised secret high-intensity training sessions in the afternoons.
Franck Ribery, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Mueller supported the initiative.
Robben claimed his son's school team trained harder than Ancelotti's also-rans.
So Heynckes was brought back precisely because he was a retro taskmaster. Back to basics was the new black.
Against PSG yesterday, Bayern's work ethic contrasted sharply with the earlier lackadaisical plod in Paris. The 4-2-3-1 formation was tight, focused and well-drilled, with almost every starter given defensive duties.
At centre back, Niklas Suele featured in both games against PSG. Under Ancelotti, he went AWOL (absent without official leave) in Paris. Under Heynckes, he didn't give Edinson Cavani a kick in Munich.
On the wing, the captain's armband gifted Ribery a new lease of life. His light touch out wide was almost as eye-catching as his heavy industry in defence.
Bayern's oldest player belied his 34 years, doubling up as a wing-back to support David Alaba in handling Kylian Mbappe.
Even James Rodriguez was kept busy, irritating the PSG back four and teasing us with glimpses of the cocky Colombian kid at the last World Cup.
And in central midfield, Corentin Tolisso displayed the kind of qualities typically associated with a Heynckes side. He popped up in both boxes, scored a couple of goals, kept an eye on Julian Draxler and lived up to every stereotype concerning German engineering.
He never stopped running. Nor did his teammates.
Heynckes brings out the best of Bayern. He began his first stint at the club 30 years ago and has an acute understanding of the club's psyche. The Germans prefer to be driven, not indulged.
Whereas Ancelotti was a master of massaging the egos of superstars at Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid, Heynckes' hard-nosed approach works better with the flinty-eyed folks at Bayern.
So much so that board members were eager for the interim coach to stay.
Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had to confirm that Heynckes still intended to leave at the end of the season. The club had hoped he might delay his retirement further after such an impressive start.
But Rummenigge must acknowledge that Heynckes' greatest strength may be the club's long-term weakness. He does things his way and on his terms.
He won't change his mind.
Still, if Heynckes can maintain Bayern's newfound discipline and resolve, his second retirement will also end with plenty of silverware.