Franz Beckenbauer is the only man to have won the World Cup both as a player and as a manager. His roll of honour is unique. Captain of West Germany when they won the World Cup and the European Championship, he also led his club, Bayern Munich, to three successive European Cups and also to the European Cup Winners' Cup.
But it is not just for the medals and trophies that Beckenbauer is remembered. Rather it is for the style and the genius. Every movement he made on the pitch bristled with elegance. There was an arrogance in his play that suggested he was always in command - "Emperor Franz" and "The Kaiser" they called him. But more than that, he was a great thinker about the game and brought about a revolution in the way it is played by inventing the role of the attacking sweeper.
Those powerful long runs out of central defence had never been seen before. Up to then, no one had thought that a sweeper had any job being in his opponents' half of the field, let alone scoring. Beckenbauer both created and bequeathed this tactic to the modern game. It contained the element of surprise and it became his trademark.
As Keir Radnedge wrote in Soccer: The Ultimate Encyclopedia: "He was the puppet master, standing back and pulling the strings which earned West Germany and Bayern Munich every major prize."
Beckenbauer was born amid the ruins of post-war Germany on September 11, 1945, in Munich. He joined the youth team at Bayern when he was 14 and three years later gave up his job as a trainee insurance salesman to become a professional footballer.
At that time, Bayern were one of West Germany's less fashionable clubs and didn't merit a place in the Bundesliga when it was formed in 1963. But they were soon promoted and when Beckenbauer made his debut in 1964 it was as an outside-left.
He was soon switched into midfield and within a year he had made his debut for West Germany. The match - a test of nerve for even experienced internationals, let alone a fledgling 20-year-old - was a crucial World Cup qualifier away to Sweden. Beckenbauer, however, demonstrated that coolness of temperament for which he was to become famous as West Germany won 2-1 and qualified for the 1966 World Cup to be played in England.
Little could Beckenbauer have realised that the competition was to herald the start of a series of epic battles between England and West Germany.
In the opening matches, Beckenbauer gave a glimpse of what was to come by gliding through for two goals as the Germans demolished Switzerland 5-0. They drew 0-0 with Argentina then beat Spain 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals.
That match was against Uruguay whose indiscipline saw them reduced to nine men after two dismissals. Again, Beckenbauer came from deep in midfield to score in a 4-0 victory.
Beckenbauer was again on the scoresheet in the semi-final against Russia who were also reduced to nine men, one player leaving the field through injury, the other sent off. His goal was stunning, a left-footed shot from outside the box which he bent round the Russian wall to beat legendary keeper Lev Yashin at the far post.
For the final against England, Beckenbauer was deputed to man-mark Bobby Charlton and followed him all around Wembley. It was a battle of wits. Charlton was the player the Germans feared most and as Beckenbauer himself said years later: "England beat us in 1966 because Bobby Charlton was just a bit better than me."
England won 4-2 in extra-time though a Geoff Hurst hat-trick. The result was a huge disappointment for the young Beckenbauer, but it was to be only the first of three World Cup Finals he was to play in and he would have his revenge.
Back at Bayern, things were looking up for the club which had only recently been admitted to the big time. The won the West German Cup in both 1966 and 1967 and in that latter year won the first of their European trophies, the Cup Winners' Cup, by beating Glasgow Rangers 1-0.
By this time, Beckenbauer was captain of Bayern and at the end of the decade the club had a talented team which was about to launch itself towards European domination. Two of the other outstanding players in the side were goalkeeper Sepp Maier and centre-forward Gerd Muller, the striker who was to terrify England, becoming known as Der Bomber.
In 1968 Beckenbauer had his initial taste of revenge for that World Cup Final defeat, scoring the goal that gave West Germany victory for the first time over England. Success continued at club level as he led Bayern to their first Bundesliga Championship in 1969.
It was during this period of the late Sixties that Beckenbauer began to experiment with the tactic of mounting attacking raids from the centre of defence. He had watched and admired the runs down the flank of the tall Internazionale and Italy left-back Giancinto Facchetti - an early version of today's wing-back - and wanted to adapt the methods to a similar role played from centre-back.
The beauty of the ploy was, as explained in Soccer: The World Game: "The role of sweeper appeared a perfect launching pad, since the sweeper himself was never marked, lurked deep at the back, and could pick his moment to surge upfield." Bayern were quickly convinced of its value, but the West German manager Helmut Schoen was more cautious. Despite Beckenbauer's requests he was not allowed to play the way he wanted to for his country until the European Championship Finals of 1972, by which time he had been an international for seven years.
Before then, of course, was the World Cup in Mexico in 1970. West Germany were not to win it, but they were involved in one of the most dramatic World Cup matches and once again the opponents were the defending Champions England.
West Germany qualified for the quarter-finals by winning all their three games, beating Morocco 2-1, Bulgaria 5-2 and Peru 3-1. England, on the other hand, had lost one match - the colossal struggle with Brazil to whom they went down 1-0. Many thought that much of England's energy had been drained by that classic contest in the heat of Guadalajara. They had suffered another blow, too. Gordon Banks, the world's finest keeper, had been taken ill and would be replaced by Chelsea's Peter Bonetti.
Despite this, England took a 2-0 lead, with goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters, and appeared to be coasting towards the semi-finals. Then the game was turned on its head, and the man who started it was Beckenbauer.
Brian Glanville describes what happened in his book, The Story of the World Cup: "Beckenbauer advanced, picked up a rebound, and sent a low, right-footed unexceptional shot towards the left-hand corner. Bonetti went down too late, the ball ran under his dive, and the score was 2-1."
It was the start of a nightmare for Bonetti. But much has been made of the fact that England manager Alf Ramsey took off Bobby Charlton, wanting to rest him for the semi-finals, and brought on Colin Bell in his place.
However, as Glanville points out: "It is significant, given the subsequent theory that all went awry when Charlton departed, thus allowing Beckenbauer to come forward, that Beckenbauer scored his vital goal before Charlton was replaced."
The equaliser came from the veteran Uwe Seeler who headed the ball in a looping arc over Bonetti who was stranded in no-man's land. Then, in extra-time, Hurst had a goal disallowed for England before Muller - who was to finish the tournament's leading scorer with 10 - completed their torment with a thundering volley to win the match.
Revenge for that World Cup Final defeat was sweet for the Germans. But the joy was not to last. Despite their exhausting efforts against England, they were 1-1 at the end of normal time in the semi-final against Italy.
However, in the first period of extra-time, Beckenbauer was chopped down and injured. He carried on with his arm strapped to his side, but from then on he was merely a passenger. West Germany, without their sweeper and inspiration, went down 4-3. Beckenbauer, though, would live to fight another day.
In 1971 he was made captain of his country and at last succeeded in putting his theories into practice. By the following year's European Championships, Beckenbauer personified the modern sweeper, the player around whom everything revolved. It paid off handsomely, West Germany winning the trophy by beating the Soviet Union 3-0 in the final and Beckenbauer being voted European Footballer of the Year.
It was just the start of a period of extraordinary success for Beckenbauer. Bayern, under his leadership, won three successive Budesliga Championships and three successive European Cups - thrashing Atletico Madrid 4-0 in 1974 in a replay after a 1-1 draw, conquering Don Revie's Leeds United 2-0 in 1975 and beating St Etienne of France 1-0 in 1976. For good measure, Bayern also won the World Clubs Cup in 1976 with a 2-0 aggregate victory over South American Champions Cruzeiro of Brazil. They were, undoubtedly, not just the premier club side in Europe, but the world.
But the peak of achievement for Beckenbauer was captaining his country to World Cup victory in the Olympic Stadium in his home city of Munich in 1974. West Germany finished only runners-up in an easy group in the early stages, surprisingly losing their first ever game against East Germany 1-0. They made no mistakes at the second group stage, however, winning all three matches.
But it was a team in the other half of the draw that everyone was talking about. The "Total Football" of Holland, captained by Johan Cruyff, had captured the imagination. They had scored 14 goals and conceded only one in six games en route to the final. Now they were ready for the showdown against the equally effective "Total Football" of West Germany. Perhaps it should have been billed "Total Box Office" - because with the two best players in the world, the match was inevitably presented as Beckenbauer v Cruyff.
Certainly the game was going to turn on whether the Germans could stop Cruyff, but that job fell not to Beckenbauer but to Bertie Vogts, now manager of the current national side.
The start was sensational. Holland kicked-off and passed the ball around aimlessly as the home crowd whistled and jeered. Suddenly, Cruyff raced forward with the ball, went past Vogts and was tripped in the penalty area. Johan Neeskens took the spot kick and West Germany were 1-0 down without having touched the ball.
With such a start, how did Holland lose? Brian Glanville explains: "For twenty-five minutes the Dutch did as they pleased against a stunned German team, rolling the ball about, making pretty patterns, bur creating no real opportunities. Dangerous indulgence against a host team; and so it was that West Germany got off the hook."
First they equalised though a Paul Breitner penalty and then Muller got the winner just before half-time as the Dutch defence began to wilt. Beckenbauer had achieved one half of his unique double.
He was voted European Footballer of the Year for the second time after that hat-trick of European Cups in 1976, even though West Germany lost that year's European Championship Final to Czechoslovakia in a penalty shoot-out.
Beckenbauer had won a record 103 caps for West Germany when, in 1977, he accepted a 2.5 million dollar contract to play for the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League. He stayed four years in which the Cosmos won the Soccer Bowl three times.
He briefly returned to Germany before playing out one final season with the Cosmos before retiring in 1984.
That year he was appointed the West German national manager in succession to Jupp Derwall. It was, in one sense, an extraordinary appointment, for Beckenbauer had no coaching experience at all. His apprenticeship was served gaining qualification for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he astonished everyone by taking a somewhat ordinary team to the final where they lost 3-2 to Argentina.
Italia 90 was different, however. Beckenbauer now had a united German side capable of going all the way. Once again it was England who were blocking his way, a 1-1 draw in the semi-final bringing about the drama of that penalty shoot-out in which Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed to give Beckenbauer managerial victory over his rival Bobby Robson.
The final - as in 1986 against Argentina - was a sterile affair, a penalty being enough to ensure the trophy for the Germans. Beckenbauer had made history with a unique World Cup double.
After the headiness of international immortality, Beckenbauer moved into club management as coach at Olympique Marseilles. It was a brief and unsuccessful spell. He returned to Bayern as coach in 1994, guiding them to the Bundesliga title before moving upstairs as the club president.
The legacy of Beckenbauer's golden career will last a long time, however. No other footballer, as an innovator and as a winner, ever reached such heights as The Kaiser.
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