Franz Beckenbauer, widely regarded as one of the finest footballers of all time, and one of only three men to win the World Cup as a player and manager, has died aged 78.
Beckenbauer won 104 caps for West Germany, captaining them to glory at the 1974 World Cup before repeating the feat, as manager, in Italy 16 years later. He also won numerous other honours, including a hat-trick of European Cups with Bayern Munich in the mid-70s, when he also established his reputation as a defender of supreme talents.
Nicknamed “Der Kaiser”, Beckenbauer was as elegant as he was dominant, and such was his assurance in possession that he came to master the modern sweeper role, or libero. More so, he is credited with creating it.
Born in Giesling, a working-class district of Munich, in September 1945, Beckenbauer grew up as a fan of 1860 Munich but joined the youth setup at the then unfashionable Bayern instead. He was originally a centre-forward and made his debut for the club in 1964, when they were in West Germany’s second tier, as a left winger. He eventually moved into centre midfield and having helped Bayern achieve promotion to the Bundesliga, was made captain ahead of the 1968-69 season, leading them to the top-flight title at the first time of asking.
He became an inspirational and consistently excellent figure for Bayern, leading them to a hat-trick of domestic titles between 1972-74, as well as those three European titles, between 1974-76. At the age of 20, he also made his debut for West Germany in a World Cup qualifier away to Sweden. The youngster shone in a 2-1 victory that sealed his country’s place at the 1966 finals in England.
West Germany went on to lose to the hosts at Wembley but a golden period for the nation was just around the corner and with Beckenbauer as captain and domineering defender, they won the 1972 European Championship before clinching the world title, on home soil, two years later.
Having won further honours, including the Ballon d’Or in 1972 and 1976, Beckenbauer retired from playing in 1984 following a spell with the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League. That same year, he was appointed West Germany manager despite having no previous coaching experience. It did not matter, however, as Beckenbauer led his country to the final of the 1986 World Cup and then to the trophy itself at Italia 90, joining Brazil’s Mario Zagallo in achieving world success on the touchline as well as on the pitch.
There followed a brief spell in charge of Marseille in France before Beckenbauer returned to Bayern, leading the club to the Bundesliga title in 1994 and the Uefa Cup two years later. Beckenbauer also had spells as president at Bayern and vice president of the German Football Association.