Rehhagel wants to get even

LISBON – Otto Rehhagel steered Greece to the greatest success in its soccer history when the national team qualified for the Euro 2004 quarterfinals on Sunday. So after an illustrious 30-year coaching career, mostly in the Bundesliga, where he won almost everything, you might think the 65-year-old would now want to retire under the Greek sun. But you would be wrong. Rehhagel is determined to stay on as coach at least until the 2006 World Cup when his new contract with the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) runs out, because it seems he still has a point to prove. «You German reporters said I could only work in Werder Bremen. I can work anywhere, and I showed it tonight,» a visibly angry Rehhagel told a news conference on Sunday. His Greek team had just lost 2-1 to already-eliminated Russia but qualified for a quarterfinal against France on goals scored, thereby leaving a fancied Spanish side to pack their bags. Still bitter Instead of relishing the moment, Rehhagel was obviously still bitter at how the media had handled his disastrous brief spell at German giants Bayern Munich. His highly successful second stint at Werder Bremen began in 1981 and ended 14 years later, following two championships, two German Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992. Rehhagel, at the peak of his coaching powers, was lured by Bayern but fired on the eve of the 1996 UEFA Cup final which the Munich side won without him. Bayern’s players had forced him out, complaining about his rigid out-of-date coaching. Personal ambition But his methods took second-division Kaiserslautern to the Bundesliga the next year and they won the title, ahead of Bayern Munich, in 1998 – the first newly promoted club to achieve such a feat. Four years later, Rehhagel can’t wait to return to Germany but this time he hopes to go back with a gritty and experienced Greek team to play in the 2006 World Cup finals and re-establish his reputation as one of the best coaches in the business. «The coach has a dream, a vision. He wants to take the team to Germany and play in the World Cup in his home country. It just happens that his personal ambition is also EPO’s vision,» a senior EPO official told Reuters this week. «It’s great that we see eye to eye,» he said. With World Cup qualifying matches starting in September, Rehhagel will have little time to enjoy his team’s impressive run to the last eight at Euro 2004. Less than two years before the start of the World Cup, the cunning German must draw up plans for what he hopes will be a highly successful professional swan song.