Best of the British at Bayern Munich: Mark Hughes
The elongated Bundesliga winter break offers the opportunity to digress and take a nostalgic look at the "Best of British" down the years at German giants Bayern Munich.
First up, on our way down memory lane, we turn our attention to Mark Hughes.
The Welsh striker joined Bayern on loan from Spanish giants Barcelona in an effort to jump-start a stuttering career in November 1987.
The fiery Welshman was immediately anointed "The Prince of Wales" by the Bayern faithful. He celebrated his debut on Nov. 7 by scoring the opener against Bayer Uerdingen in front of just 16,000 fans in an arctic Olympic Stadium.
And if you think footballers play too much football these days, how about this for a show of sacrifice from Hughes? It will also give you an indication of the clout and persuasive skills of the then-general manager Uli Hoeness. He convinced Hughes to play two crucial games in one day -- with the first match not kicking off till 17:30 CET.
Just four days after his competitive debut for Bayern, on a late afternoon in Prague on Nov. 11, the striker played a full 90 minutes for Wales in a crucial Euro qualifier against Czechoslovakia.
Wales would have reached Euro 1988 with a win, but succumbed to a heartbreaking 2-0 defeat to crush their qualifying hopes.
Ignoring the heartache of a devastating loss for his national side, Hughes made his way straight down the tunnel after the full-time whistle. He was taxied to Prague airport at around 19:15 CET, where a Learjet was conveniently waiting to fly him to Munich for a cup replay.
Hughes recounted the tale to the Daily Mail: "We flew over the ground and the match had kicked off. I could see the players from the air."
Herr Hoeness himself then chauffeured the coveted striker in his Porsche from Munich Airport to make the game in time for the second half. It must be remembered that this was back when Germany also staged cup replays to decide the outcome.
Jupp Heynckes' charges were trailing 1-0 when Hughes entered the fray just after the hour mark as a substitute. The Reds went onto to win 3-2 after extra time, so all the effort was worth it.
Domestically, another high point came when Hughes fired a hat trick in the 5-0 drubbing of Bochum in early May. A paltry 8,500 crowd witnessed the game at Bayern's old ground -- a figure that is absolutely unimaginable nowadays.
On the biggest club stage, Hughes put in a great shift as Bayern cruised to a 3-0 home lead in the European Cup quarterfinals first-leg clash in March 1988 against Real Madrid. However, with just a few minutes remaining, Bayern conceded two sloppy goals from Emilio Butragueno and Hugo Sanchez, which completely turned the tie on its head. The Reds exited the competition without a whimper two weeks later in Madrid.
The combative forward's time in Bavaria ended in utter disappointment as he was sent off for retaliation after just 19 minutes against VfB Stuttgart in May 1988. The history books show that Lothar Matthaus grabbed a brace as Bayern won 2-1 with 10 men, with Jurgen Klinsmann adding a consolation goal for the Swabians. Hughes never played for the club again, finishing with six goals in 18 Bundesliga appearances as the Reds languished behind champions Werder Bremen in the table. His playing career was then revitalised by a certain Alex Ferguson after rejoining Manchester United in July 1988.
After cutting his managerial teeth with his country, the proud Welshman has become an experienced Premier League boss. Hughes was even rumoured to be in the frame to replace Louis van Gaal at Bayern in 2011, before the hierarchy (perhaps wisely) opted for the safe hands of the tried and trusted Heynckes.
Bayern have moved on appreciably since then, and so has "Sparky" to manage Stoke City, but the legacy of Hughes' brief spell with the Bavarians is one that will not be forgotten.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.