Uli Stielike: “Bayern and Madrid should have met in the final”
Uli Stielike spent eight seasons at Real Madrid during the late 70s and early 80s. He sat down with AS to chat about Wednesday's semi-final clash with Bayern.
How did you end up coaching in China?
I received a phone in September last year when the team (Tianjin TEDA) were immersed in a relegation battle. And it all turned out well. I took over the team with seven games to play, with just 16 points, and we were able to take 15 points and save ourselves from the drop. After that I signed a one-year extension.
Is the Chinese Super League stronger now than in previous seasons?
It depends - every club's case is different. There is a big difference between the teams. Some regularly attract crowds of 25,000 to 30,000 like Shanghai and Guangzhou, while other teams, unfortunately that includes us, draw crowds of about 8,000. And similarly, some clubs will spend small fortunes on their squad and others don't.
Like your team…
Yes, that's right, we've hardly spent anything.
Who is the owner of Tianjin Teda?
Well, it's a technological branch of the government… Teda is the technological development area. It's a business set up by the Chinese state government.
Villas Boas left China frustrated that they kept changing the rules…
They try to favour home-grown football. And they experiment quite a bit. Just recently they brought out a new rule in which you have to have an Under-23 player in the starting line-up and three U23 players have to play during the full 90 minutes. So what happens? The majority of the coaches bring the other two Under-23 players on in stoppage time, so the rule doesn't serve for anything and it just complicates matters for the coach who has to think more about complying with the rules than on how to win the game.
And what rules are there about foreign players?
You can have up to four in the squad, but only include three in the list… all three of them can play in the same game.
How many different countries have you coached in?
Well, apart from Germany and Spain, I've been in Asia since 2009 - between Qatar, South Korea and now China.
Do you think you'll ever come back to Spain?
We've decide to base ourselves there next year. It's all sorted.
Shame about the draw
How do you see the semi-final between Bayern and Real Madrid going?
It's just a shame that they are meeting now because it would have made a fantastic final. Bayern-Madrid should have been the final really. And strangely enough they've never met in the final.
Who looks the strongest in your opinion?
Bayern look the most stable to me, without any doubt. They've already won the Bundesliga. They put six past Leverkusen at their ground, and they're one of the top teams in our league… Bayern's season so far has been breath-taking.
And what about Real Madrid?
They've had a lot of ups and down and they've disappointed in LaLiga. When you are constantly up and down like that, you never really know how long your good run will last or when you are going to suffer a dip. And that's the problem they've got, it's hard to gauge them because they've been so inconsistent.
Were you pleased to see Heynckes back at Bayern?
It was a surprise to see him go back at 72. But he made it clear that he was doing it for his love of the club and, above all, people like Uli Hoeness. He's kept his word and will be passing on the reins to Kovac.
Why do you think Heynckes fits in so well at Bayern?
Because he never lets himself be influenced by the atmosphere surrounding the club. Bayern is like Germany's Real Madrid. The press are always present, a lot of sponsors and people who want to exert their influence. Then they have a squad with 20 international players… All in all there is a great deal of pressure and Heynckes knows exactly how to handle it because he has a lot of experience.
Is it really as simple as that?
He also has an advantage because he speaks Spanish so he can communicate with players like Javi Martínez, Thiago, Vidal in their own language and that's important. He's a very sensitive man who has been married to the same woman for a long time, that gives you an idea about how balanced he is. A club like Bayern, Real Madrid and Barça need someone balanced at the helm…
Ancelotti is very balanced, speaks Spanish, and yet they still sacked him...
But he doesn't speak German and that's a big handicap. Understanding and being able to speak the mother tongue is important because sometimes you need to be able to read between the lines, understand the banter, the jokes. Apart from all of that, Heynckes also understands the dressing room and he's brought back players like Ribéry and Müller.
Heynckes' playing days
What was he like as a player?
I know him very well because we played together in that great Mönchengladbach side. He was a great striker; he'd be battling every season to end as top scorer with Gerd Müller. He was a very powerful forward. He always sought the direct route to goal. He could shoot with both feet, he was good in the air…
Do you think his attacking style rubs off on his teams?
I think so. Bayern play a very attacking game. At Bayern, he's also got the right kind of players to be able to do that. I think he has also done well in making players like Ribéry and Robben, attack-minded players, understand that they have other duties to fulfill when the team loses the ball. And that is a great skill for any coach.
Bayern, strong in every area
What do you like most about this Bayern side?
Their forward line is incredible, like Madrid's with Bale-Benzema-Cristiano. Then they have players like Ribéry and Robben who are the kind of players who can drift wide and punish teams with a cross into the box or finish off moves on their own. Like Madrid, they also have an excellent subs' bench. And that is important if you want to win trophies.
Do you prefer Real Madrid to play with Bale-Benzema-Cristiano in attack or go 4-4-2?
That all depends on what the coach thinks at the time. If Zidane is sure that Madrid can control the match through having possession of the ball, then he'd be better playing with four midfielders. But I think in Munich he should resist the idea of having 60% possession.
The first thing he needs to do is control Bayern's attacking play then look to hit them on the break. When they are at home, Bayern have shown that they don't sit back and wait, they go all out for the game.
Back in your day, was there a striker like Benzema, who was more involved in the team's moves than scoring goals?
No, no… During the eight years I spent at Madrid, I played with Santillana - and Charly was a phenomenon. The problem with strikers is that people only view them for the goals they score but there are times when they have other jobs to do - open up spaces or provide the final pass.
Are you defending him?
I prefer Lewandowski. And I think in that department Bayern have a huge advantage. Looking at Benzema from afar he seems like the kind of guy who needs a lot of affection and support, and when things aren't going right, he has difficulties in getting over it
His case is similar to Benzema's. He looks a bit forlorn. And I have the impression that he hasn't fully adapted to Spanish life. He's also had his fair share of injury problems… But there's no doubt he's a great player.
Legends who made Real Madrid the club it is today
Where does Cristiano fit in in Real Madrid's history?
Look, players like Di Stéfano, Puskás and Gento are the ones who built that club. People should never forget that. Those who are at the club now are carrying on the good work but it was other people who actually made Real Madrid what it is today. So right now Cristiano is the main man at Real Madrid, but that club was built by Di Stéfano, Puskas and Gento.