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11.08.2021Bayer 04

Heintze: Years at Leverkusen 'the best of my career'

Twice runner-up, third once: The record of his three years at Leverkusen are nothing to be sneezed at. Particularly as Jan Heintze played a big part in Bayer 04 establishing a foothold in Germany's top flight from 1996. The Denmark international played on the left side of midfield under coach Christoph Daum, making 109 appearances for the Black and Reds up to 1999, running up and down the touchline in his mid-30s like a young buck and he counted amongst the best goal providers in the team. Jan Heintze made his debut for the Werkself 25 years ago. In an interview with bayer04.de, the 57-year-old looks back at his time at Leverkusen, recalls long car journeys with Erik Meijer and talks about his job, which has brought him back to the BayArena regularly for a number of years.
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Jan, when you came to Leverkusen in 1996 you were already 33 and had won the the Dutch league title six times and the European Cup once, the Dutch cup three times and you'd played in the European Championship. What were your expectations when you started at Bayer 04 back then?
Heintze:
Back then I signed from KFC Uerdingen where I played for two years and got to know the Bundesliga. I was really looking forward to Leverkusen even though Bayer 04 had a difficult season and were almost relegated in 1996. But, from the first day at training, I felt this was a great team and that we could go places.

There were a lot of new signings in that season including Jens Nowotny, Niko and Robert Kovac plus Erik Meijer who started with you under the Bayer Cross.
Heintze: Yes, there was a spirit of optimism that could be clearly felt. There was also a new coach in Christoph Daum. And there was an incredibly good team spirit within the side and we really pulled together. In that respect, the Leverkusen years were really the best of my career.

Can you still remember your first match in a Bayer 04 shirt?
Heintze:
To be honest, no.

First round of the DFB Cup, you lost 5-3 on penalties at Werder Bremen…
Heintze:
Well, not a lucky start, but we were right on it in the Bundesliga. We played with a lot of joy and great motivation. And I also have to say that I really liked the training under Christoph Daum and Roland Koch. The two of them placed great value on fitness and stamina. I was 36 when I signed for PSV Eindhoven three years later and nevertheless I was by far the fittest in the whole team.

In a Werkself podcast, Erik Meijer said three years with Daum was as intensive as nine years with the normal coach...
Heintze:
(He laughs) Yes, Erik's right there. Daum and Koch were a great duo, they demanded a lot from us and they complemented each other perfectly. In my 21 years as a professional footballer, Christoph Daum was one of the best coaches I had. He could simply get the best out of every player.

You always lived in Nuenen near Eindhoven when you were at Uerdingen and later at Bayer 04. What was it like doing a car share with Erik Meijer?
Heintze:
Well, it was a brilliant time, we had an incredible amount of fun on those journeys. We travelled to Uerdingen together for a year and were always the first to arrive at training and the last to leave to go home. In those four years I spent more time with Erik than I did with my wife.

Erik maintains you were always 15 minutes quicker arriving in Leverkusen when you were driving. Was that down to the car or your heavy foot?
Heintze:
(He laughs) It could be right that I used to keep my foot on the gas a bit more back then. I definitely drive more carefully these days.

 

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As a team, you made great strides in the Bundesliga and finished runners-up in your first season.
Heintze:
We were close to winning the title. It's a pity we didn't grab our chance in the final games. But, nevertheless, it was a great season...

…where the 'oldest pair of wingers in the world', as Daum called you and Hans-Peter Lehnhoff, stirred up the Bundesliga. You on the left flank, Hans-Peter on the right: Back then, as 33-year-olds, you were not only quick on your feet but also very successful as goal providers. You clocked up eleven assists in 1996/97 and Peter had seven.
Heintze:
Yes, we definitely made our contribution. But that was only possible because we both placed great value on physical fitness and healthy diets. Age hardly came into it.

So it was no surprise when your made your comeback to the Denmark team in 1996 after a long break and even set a new record.
Heintze: At the start of the 1990s I had problems with the national coach back then Richard Moeller Nielsen and I didn't play for Denmark for four years. Then the new coach Bo Johansson called me up in November 1996 for the game against France. And after that I played 52 internationals in succession for Denmark up to the 2002 World Cup and that was actually a new Danish record.

You played your last match for PSV when you are nearly 40. What was the secret to that incredible fitness in over 20 years as a professional footballer?
Heintze:
I'm almost never had any serious injuries. It was definitely down to luck on one hand but also down to my professional way of life. Even after training sessions I used to work out. As I said, the right diet suitable for athletes played a role.

 

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For career reasons, you had two jobs on the go when you are young. You founded a printers in Eindhoven when you were 22. Were you born with that entrepreneurial spirit?
Heintze:
No, not at all. But I always had the urge to not be exclusively involved with football. I wanted to have a second string to my bow early on. The printers was actually my first company. I founded it in 1986 and is still going today because my partner at the time took it over and he now runs the printers with his son. As an employer, it's extremely important to work with good people and you have to have a feeling for that. And I think I've got it.

You also produced fan merchandise for PSV Eindhoven, were a player and sponsor of the club at the same time and even had your own box where you could watch games from if you weren't playing.
Heintze:
Yes, in the last five years of my playing career I also worked for the media section at PSV, printing fan merchandise catalogues and other printed items. At home games I'm normally in my box, which has 23 seats, and I watch games there with business partners. But I can also use it as an office.

What are you working at these days?
Heintze:
I work in property but also in the area of sports insurance for Wannet Sports Insurance and, beyond that, also back with Bayer 04 again.

In what way?
Heintze:
Since the 2017/18 season Bayer 04 have used us to insure players in the first-team squad in the event of occupational incapacity due to injuries or accidents. But it's also about issues like continuing payments in the event of illness. I'm like the right hand of the CEO Joseph Wannet and that's why I've been to the BayArena on business over the past few years. If possible, we always try to tie it in with going to a match.

Then you will also be up-to-date with what's happening on the pitch at Bayer 04?
Heintze:
Yes, and of course, I was very interested in the way Peter Bosz worked here. Unfortunately it didn't work out in the end. I actually think Bayer 04 belong in the top five in Germany. It wasn't quite enough to make it to the top. I think Leverkusen will be playing for Champions League places this season. And I'm looking forward to being able to get to watch a couple of Bayer 04 games.

Jan, to finish off, back to the subject of fitness: Your friend Erik Meijer is taking part in a triathlon in Roth in Franconia in September. What do your sporting activities look like?
Heintze:
(He laughs) I'm not as crazy as Erik. I have a lot of respect for what he's doing and I'll cross my fingers for him with this challenge. Twice a year I go away with a group of friends for a few days on racing bikes. We do our tours in the Ardennes in Belgium for four or five days with up to 100 kilometres per day. It's pretty tiring but it's also great fun.

Profile:

Date of birth:
17 August 1963

Place of birth:
Tarnby (Denmark)

Clubs:
PSV Eindhoven (1982-1994 and 1999-2003) – 521 games, 6 goals, 26 assists; KFC Uerdingen (1994-1996) – 57 games, 4 goals, 3 assists; Bayer 04 (1996-1999) – 109 games, 5 goals, 21 assists

Honours:
1 x European Cup with PSV 1988
9 x Champion of the Netherlands with PSV
3 x Dutch cup winner with PSV
3 x Super cup winner with PSV
2 x Bundesliga runner-up with Bayer 04 (1997 and 1999)
2 x World Cups with Denmark (1998 and 2002)
2 x European Championships with Denmark (1988 and 2000)

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