Berlin: Jupp Heynckes bowed out with Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals with the head coach admitting not many 72-year-olds get to experience "such an adventure".
Heynckes, who turns 73 next Wednesday, took charge of his final European match in Tuesday's 2-2 draw at Real Madrid before he steps down at the end of the season.
"Of course I know now, it's final that I'll never go back to the bench in a Champions League game - and I think that's a good thing," he said as Bayern bowed out 4-3 on aggregate. "Not many people get to go on such an adventure at the age of 72.
"I don't feel the emotion 'yes, now it's over', I'm just disappointed with the result, especially for the players. "I have to compliment my team, I have not seen FC Bayern in form like that for many years, it was football at its best."
When Carlo Ancelotti was sacked last October, Heynckes returned to Bayern after four years in retirement since leading Bayern to the 2013 treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles.
He only signed a contract until June and Heynckes will be replaced by Eintracht Frankfurt boss Niko Kovac next season. His Bayern team went down fighting in Madrid. After losing the first leg 2-1 in Munich, Bayern flew out of the blocks in the return at the Santiago Bernabeu with Joshua Kimmich scoring after just three minutes.
Real equalised when Karim Benzema was allowed to head home unmarked at the far post. Then a double mistake in the Bayern defence allowed the French striker to make it 2-1 just a minute after the break.
Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich gifted Benzema his second goal by misjudging a poor back-pass from Corentin Tolisso to allow the Frenchman to tap into an empty net.
"Sven had a great season," Heynckes said of Manuel Neuer's stand-in since September, "he just had a blackout. "He wanted to pick up the ball with his hands, then he realised that's not going to work and got confused, which is bitterly disappointing for the player and my team."
James Rodriguez equalised for Bayern, but the Germans ultimately bowed out to Spanish opposition for the fifth season in a row in the knock-out stages of Europe. Nevertheless, Heynckes has worked wonders with Bayern this season.
Bayern had a five-point deficit in the Bundesliga table when he arrived, yet now hold into a massive 24-point lead after wrapping up a sixth straight title last month. Bayern's dreams of winning the treble this season ended in Madrid. However, they can still do the double as the Bundesliga winners face Frankfurt and their future coach Kovac in the German Cup final on May 19 in Berlin.
Heynckes says he has simply enjoyed working with Bayern's stars. "We have had a wonderful atmosphere, a great collaboration over the nine months, it's a group that has character, it's a pity it was not rewarded," he added.
Bayern's sports director Hasan Salihamidzic poured praise on Heynckes. "You have to see where we've come from, we were written off in October, so I have to give Jupp Heynckes a lot of praise,"said Salihamidzic....