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Maximilian ("Max") Merkel (born Viennamarker, 7 December 1918 – died Putzbrunnmarker (on the outskirts of Munichmarker), Germanymarker, 28 November 2006) was an Austrianmarker football player and coach. The former Rapid player featured twice in a national team. "The Great Zampano" - as he was also called after the title of an Italian movie about a magician - whose motto was "with cake and whip" was one of the top coaches in the early years of the Bundesliga. He remains most closely associated to the halcyon days of TSV 1860 Munich in the early 1960s. His brand of Viennese humour, often exceeding the line to sarcasm, frequently spiced up the football scene.

Playing Years

In 1933 a classified advertisement by the Viennese football club Rapid looking for young players allured the 15 year old Max Merkel. They took him, but to his disappointment he was made defender and not, as he hoped, forward. He was to remain in this position for the rest of his career. Later he formed a formidable duo in the defence with Ernst Happel, who as coach went on to achieve legendary status in the 1970s and 80s.

He also played for Wiener Sportclub between 1937–42 and in the 1945–46 season, for the Luftwaffen-SV Markersdorf an der Pielach between 1942 and 45) before returning to Rapid from 1946 to 1954.

After the Anschluss he played once for the German national football team in 1939. In 1952 he also played once for Austria.

Merkel's greatest regret about his time as player is that most of it "was stolen by the war".

Coaching Years

After he acquired under the German World Cup winning national team coach Sepp Herberger his coaching diploma, Max Merkel had his first appointment between 1954–55 with HBS Craeyenhout in the Netherlandsmarker, which he followed up with a year as Bondscoach, i.e., coach of the Dutch national team. Highlight in this position was probably the prestigious 2-1 win in Düsseldorf over reigning World Champions Germany.

In 1956 Merkel returned to his home country and took on the reins at Rapid for two years. There he achieved the championship in his first season and thus, his first title.

This gave him an entry with the then highly rated German side Borussia Dortmund. He coached there from 1958 to 1961. The peak of this tenure was reaching the 1961 final for the German championship, which the club lost in Hanovermarker to 1. FC Nuremberg with 1-3.

TSV 1860 Munich – the Glory Years

After this he moved to Munich coaching TSV 1860. His first great achievement with the club, which was then the number two in town behind Bayern, was to take it to the crucial championship of the southern division of the German first division in 1963. This success meant, that 1860 and not their local rivals were to represent Munich in the first edition of the newly formed Bundesliga.

From there he took the club from strength to strength. In 1964 the Sixtiers won the German cup defeating in the final Eintracht Frankfurt with 2-0. In the ensuing Cup Winners Cup campaign they eliminate FC Porto and Legia Warszawa. AC Torino forces them into a play-off match after results of 0-2 and 3-1 were indecisive. 1860 wins the play-off match in Zürichmarker 2-0 and is the first German club to contest the final of this competition. The final was held in front of 100 000 in the Wembley Stadiummarker against the Londoners from West Ham United captained by Bobby Moore (†) and coached by Ron Greenwood (†). Two goals from Alan Sealey (†) in the 70th and 72nd minutes ensured that the 60ers travelled home with respect only, but no trophy.

The next season was more successful and crowned with the clubs to date only championship title. Peter Grosser and Hans Rebele powered the offensive style for which this side was famous. Local hero Rudolf Brunnenmeier († 2003) was the top scorer of the league. Highly memorable was also Yugoslav goalkeeper Petar Radenkovic, the first foreign star in the Bundesliga. Players like Luttrop and Reich performed defensive roles in this highly entertaining cast where also Alfred "Fredi" Heiss, Friedhelm Konietzka, Wilfried Kohlars and Hans Küppers managed to capture the attention of a wider audience.

In the European Champions Cup their second round encounter with the defenders Real Madrid was too high a hurdle. A 1-0 in the first leg was not enough as Real could decide their home match with 3-1 in their favour. In the league 1860 was less consistent than in the previous season, but remained close to eventual champions Eintracht Braunschweig until the last day. With only two points behind 1860 finishes as runner-up in a season that marked the end of the yellow brick road for the club.

In the course of the 1966–67 season the team denigrated into the second half of the table whilst the club decayed financially. By December 1966 Max Merkel was out of a job. But not for long.

1. FC Nuremberg

In January 1967, after the first half series, he takes over at 1. FC Nuremberg, the then still German record champions with eight titles and colloquially just referred to as "the Club". The Club was then only one point away from a relegation rank. He finishes the season a safe tenth. In the next season the team with the then, with a monthly salary of €9,000, by far best paid coach in Germany - "the dosh must be right" was one of his mottoes - leads the generally mediocre team to championship honours. This was the Club's ninth and hitherto last championship, only Bayern have more. The team had only five players that ever made it into a national side, the winger Georg Volkert and the Austrian midfielder August "Gustl" Starek being the most memorable. Besides them featured the later Ajax libero Horst Blankenburg and striker Franz Brungs, who was the second-best goalscorer of the Bundesliga with 25 goals in Nuremberg's championship season.

The success was mostly attributed to Merkel's harsh coaching methods, which ruthlessly focused on physical fitness. The next season the club saw itself confronted with relegation angst. Some blamed the coaching methods, respectively Merkel's style wearing off. Others saw the pre-season departure of important players like Starek, Brungs and Blankenburg as the main issue. Max Merkel did not get to stay until the bitter end. By March 1969 he was sacked, and "the Club" got to play in the second division for the next two years and never returned to former glory. Incidentally, 1860 Munich should meet a similar fate just a year later.

Merkel complained later: "They built facilities worth € 8m and wanted to transform the championship title into money. The players fled."

In this period Merkel also published his book "With Cake and Whip" (Mit Zuckerbrot und Peitsche) - the title was probably a suitable description of his style.

Years in Spain

Max Merkel got attracted to Spain and coached Sevilla FC in La Liga for the next two years.

He stayed in Spain and progressed to Atlético Madrid where in his first season he won the cup and followed it up with the championship. Merkel had to leave the club despite his success. His light-hearted remark that Spain were great if it were not for the Spaniards, was taken less as being humorous, but rather as a full frontal assault on Iberian pride. The Argentinian Juan Carlos Lorenzo followed him and took the club into next year's European Champions Cup final, where Atlético lost to Bayern Munich.

Autumn of the Career

In 1974 he returned briefly to 1860, then entrenched in the second division. Merkel too, had problems steering the club to a return to the top flight, and thus became just another coach in a sequence of many that 1860 employed in this era.

In the 1975–76 season he had his last major appointment. At Schalke 04 he followed the trusty Ivica Horvat who led the club twice to 7th place in the past years, in the coaching chair. After the first half of the season the team was 6th and later even climbed temporarily to 4th. After a couple of defeats the club sacked Merkel whose style was certainly not quite suitable for the club with the coal miners' pride. Remarks such as "there are too many blondes in the team" and "the best thing about Schalke is the autobahn to Munich", did not endear him in this environment.

In 1978 he was signed by Bayern Munich to succeed the Hungarian Gyula Lóránt. This triggered a revolt of the players at the club. The team considered him a too tough taskmaster and rejected Merkel. This resulted in a unanimous vote by the players who wanted Lóránt's assistant Pál Csernai to take over. The whole affair caused tremendous publicity. In the end Bayern president Wilhelm Neudecker resigned after 17 years at the helm of the club and Csernai became anointed as the new head coach.

German second division sides FC Augsburg, Karlsruher SC and in 1983 FC Zürich in Switzerland were the last clubs he coached.

Merkel was one of the most colourful football identities of his era. His major complaint was that "contrary to Udo Lattek I never had ready to go teams. Mostly I was approached by the wrong clubs." He did not take it too lightly that, despite signed contracts with Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona, he did not eventually get to coach them or a club of this calibre.

In his last years he lived reclusively in Putzbrunn near Munich, but each year at the start of the Bundesliga season some articles appeared under his name in the mass tabloid "Bild" and still stirred up the odd controversy.

Career Overview

Period Team Successes
1954–1955 HBS Craeyenhout
1955–1956 Netherlands
1956–1958 SK Rapid Wien 1957 - Championship
1958–1961 Borussia Dortmund
1961–1967 TSV 1860 München 1964 - Cup
1966 - Championship
1967–1969 1. FC Nuremberg 1968 - Championship
1969–1971 Sevilla FC
1971–1973 Atlético Madrid 1972 - Cup
1973 - Championship
1974–1975 TSV 1860 München
1975–1976 FC Schalke 04
1976–1977 FC Augsburg
1981–1982 Karlsruher SC
1983 FC Zürich


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