Look: How German legend Franz Beckenbauer revolutionised football

Beckenbauer, who died at the age of 78, amassed every major honour in his glittering playing career

By Reuters

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West Germany captain Franz Beckenbauer lifts the World Cup trophy on July 7, 1974. — AP file
West Germany captain Franz Beckenbauer lifts the World Cup trophy on July 7, 1974. — AP file

Published: Tue 9 Jan 2024, 12:38 AM

Franz Beckenbauer, who has died at the age of 78, helped modernise soccer and came to personify Germany's post-war sporting success, captaining his country to the 1974 World Cup title on home soil to anchor his legacy.

'Der Kaiser', as he was nicknamed for his imperious playing style and command of the game, was for decades synonymous with Germany's success on the pitch, as player and then coach.

He amassed every major honour in his glittering playing career and continued his extraordinary record of success after switching to the manager's bench.

Beckenbauer won 103 caps and captained West Germany to World Cup success in 1974, two years after lifting the European title.

Franz Beckenbauer (second from right) embraces his teammate Juergen Grabowski after West Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the 1974 World Cup final. — AP file
Franz Beckenbauer (second from right) embraces his teammate Juergen Grabowski after West Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the 1974 World Cup final. — AP file
Franz Beckenbauer holds the World Cup trophy after his team's victory over the Netherlands. — AFP
Franz Beckenbauer holds the World Cup trophy after his team's victory over the Netherlands. — AFP

At club level he steered Bayern Munich to three successive European Cup victories from 1974 to 1976 and won the World Club Cup, the European Cup Winners' Cup and eight domestic trophies -- four league titles and four cup triumphs.

Franz Beckenbauer waves to the spectators after winning the 1974 World Cup 1974 match against Sweden. — AFP file
Franz Beckenbauer waves to the spectators after winning the 1974 World Cup 1974 match against Sweden. — AFP file

He was West Germany's footballer of the year a record four times and twice European footballer of the year.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, and by many as the best European, as a player he invented and defined the modern libero role.

Always calm under pressure and a skilful marshal of his defence, Beckenbauer could read the game so astutely he knew exactly the right moment to surge upfield.

The unhurried sweeper never seemed to break sweat as he sprayed perfect long raking passes to his strikers.

Franz Beckenbauer (left) fights for the ball with Moroccan Benkhrif Boujemaa during the 1970 World Cup. — AFP
Franz Beckenbauer (left) fights for the ball with Moroccan Benkhrif Boujemaa during the 1970 World Cup. — AFP

He enjoyed success as a coach while leading the Germans to the 1990 World Cup title in Italy, one of only three men to have won world titles as both player and coach.

Head coach Franz Beckenbauer (centre) celebrates after West Germany won the 1990 World Cup final. — AFP
Head coach Franz Beckenbauer (centre) celebrates after West Germany won the 1990 World Cup final. — AFP

But despite heading the 2006 World Cup on home soil as organising chief, his reputation was tarnished in recent years following an investigation into a potential slush fund for that tournament and a 6.7 million euros ($7.34 million) payment to world soccer's governing body Fifa in 2005.

Franz Beckenbauer was the president of the 2006 World Cup organising committee in Germany. — AFP
Franz Beckenbauer was the president of the 2006 World Cup organising committee in Germany. — AFP

Beckenbauer, who had been battling several health issues in recent years, denied any wrongdoing and largely withdrew from the public eye.

Born in Munich on Sept. 11 1945, Beckenbauer, a postal official's son who once trained to be an insurance salesman, joined Bayern's youth teams in 1959.

He progressed to the first team and, with Beckenbauer orchestrating from midfield, Bayern rocketed to international prominence from the obscurity of West German regional league soccer to establish the most powerful brand in German football.

Shortly after his 20th birthday Beckenbauer was capped for the first time in a World Cup qualifier against Sweden and became a fixture in the national team for more than a decade.

Beckenbauer produced notable performances in three World Cups before moving across the Atlantic to New York Cosmos in a multi-million-dollar deal in 1977.

Franz Beckenbauer (6) during a New York Cosmos match. — AP
Franz Beckenbauer (6) during a New York Cosmos match. — AP

He stayed in the United States for three lucrative years before returning to West Germany in a shock that which took him to Bayern's northern rivals Hamburg SV.

Beckenbauer retired to a comfortable life at his home in the Austrian ski resort of Kitzbuehel, spending much of his time on the local golf course.

Franz Beckenbauer with Brazil legend Pele. — AFP
Franz Beckenbauer with Brazil legend Pele. — AFP

But he kept in the public eye with a regular column in West Germany's mass-circulation Bild newspaper and eventually took over as Germany coach despite his lack of managerial experience.

Beckenbauer brought discipline to the squad and commanded instant respect.

Less than two years after taking over, he guided West Germany to the 1986 World Cup final in Mexico where they lost 3-2 to Diego Maradona's Argentina.

However, they won the title four years later in rematch against the Argentines to give Beckenbauer a rare World Cup double as player and then coach and enhance his legacy.

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