Franz Beckenbauer is a name that breeds good memories for several German football fans. Nicknamed Der Kaiser for his elegance while playing, Beckenbauer was a special all-around player on the field. Furthermore, he was also a leader who earned the respect of the dressing room. He is further credited with inventing the libero role, the modern sweeper. He further crowned his success with a Ballon d’Or, a feat that only a few have achieved. Walk with me down the memory lane of this elegant German great nicknamed ‘The Emperor.’
His early footballing life
Born in Munich in 1945, the boy Franz had footballing blood. He was destined for greatness; his stars were perfectly aligned. At the tender age of 14, he had already made his way to the Bayern Munich academy. His passion for football could not allow him to multitask with his salesman job. He, therefore, had to choose one, and football being his lifeline, he dove into the game with all his body and soul.
Although Bayern Munich was not immediately promoted in the inaugural Bundesliga season in 1963, Beckenbauer was patient. They impressively played Southern Region League for a season and earned a promotion to the Bundesliga. Starting as a left winger and then a midfielder, The Kaiser slowly developed himself and took up a unique center-back role. He slowly but surely stood out with his unique defending ability, and several defenders began to study his playing style. This was the key to unlocking the future successful career that ended with him winning all the available accolades.
The redefined role that led the Bayern Munich revolution
Taking Bayern Munich from the Regional League to massive success is one of the most underrated tasks he played a role in. Beckenbauer was at the heart of the Bavaria giants as they made domestic and international strides. Despite starting as a midfielder as Bayern was promoted to Bundesliga, he showed special defensive skills. He was a player who linked up the defense and the attack well. He gradually moved to the center-back position in 1968 and took up this role with dexterity.
Countless times, he would lead attacks from the back with his perfectly taken passes and long runs. These attacks caught several opponents unaware, as spotting a defender leading an attack was rare. He was the most important puzzle piece on the Bavarian giant’s side. Bayern Munich took this to their advantage and rose to glory most immensely.
He was further regarded as a pioneer of Total Football. This tactical system allows any player to take on any role in the field. By moving from the defensive to the attacking sides, he proved to be a Total Football oriented player, a rare breed.
The massive Bayern Munich success
Franz took his role passionately, earning the reverence and admiration of several football stakeholders. In 1967, two years after their promotion to Bundesliga, they won their first top-flight accolade, the German Cup. This marked the beginning of a successful career at the Munich-based club. In the same year, they won the European Cup winner’s cup finals.
In 1968, he was finally given the mandate to captain his club. He was only 23 then but had already shown his leadership abilities. This was also the year he took his sweeping defensive role prominently and became the team’s libero. With the dressing room firmly behind him, he led them to their first Bundesliga title that season.
From 1972-74, he led the club to a hat trick of league titles, putting Bayern on the global map for the most prominent clubs. The same feat was achieved in the European competitions of 1974-76, where they dominated and bagged three in a row. This was rewarded with the club being allowed to keep the original trophy. Beckenbauer became a fan favorite from a left winger to a midfielder and now a sweeper. His elegance in leadership also earned him more respect as Bayern became a European household name.
Before departure from Bayern Munich, The Emperor had won four Bundesliga titles and three consecutive European Cups. He had also amassed an impressive four German cups, a European Cup Winners Cup, and an Intercontinental Cup. In terms of domestic and European accolades won, Beckenbauer was massively decorated. After his illustrious career, his move to New York Cosmos was more than welcome to the maestro as he decided to seek this new challenge.
The legend of living the American Dream
After the successful stint at Bayern Munich, Beckenbauer did not accept the offer to join American side New York Cosmos. Having seen other quality players like Pele flourishing in the league, the idea appealed to him. Soon enough, New York Cosmos announced him as a new signing in 1977. His quality was still top-notch as he made his side dominant in the North America Soccer League.
During his time, he lived the American Soccer dream, winning the North America Soccer League title at least thrice. The league was the equivalent of the Major Soccer League (MLS), the current top league in North America and Canada.
After his stint in the NASL, he returned to his home country and joined Bayern Munich rivals Hamburger FC in 1981. At 36, he inspired Hamburger FC to a Bundesliga title in the same season. After the season, he still had one more in him as he moved back to the NASL, joining New York Cosmos again.
Every good dancer knows when to exit the stage, and so did the great Franz Anton Beckenbauer. After that season, the Kaiser reflected on his impressive club career. Having won many trophies, he hung his boots like a legend. With that decision, he also decided to try his hand at the managerial role.
The illustrious international West Germany career
Beckenbauer’s successful club career should not overshadow the great feats that he achieved as a West German player. The player was also pivotal in revolutionizing the playing style of the national team. So influential was his role that England 1966 World Cup hero Sir Bobby Charlton hailed him. Charlton said it was a waste of time facing Beckenbauer as he was an unchallengeable defender.
In the 1966 World Cup competition, Beckenbauer made his debut. Although a first-timer, he played in every game. He announced his name to the world in his first match against Switzerland with two goals. From this moment, the football world knew that Germany had amassed yet another World Class star.
They went to the finals and met England, the tournament hosts. The tie was decided in the extra time, with Germany losing the tie. Although they lost, Franz had a reason to smile; he was the joint third top scorer at the tournament. They were warmly welcomed back to their country after the tournament.
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This tournament paved the way for greater international success that would soon engulf Beckenbauer as the team captain. Despite finishing third in the 1970 edition, he was upbeat and still thirsty for the title. Finally, he won the trophy as the Captain in the 1974 edition. This is regarded as one of his greatest feats in football that earned him cult status in Germany. In all the editions, he was named in the team of the tournament, proof of his world-class defensive qualities.
He also won the European Championship in 1972 to add the quality medal to his international collection. In 1977, he retired from international football after his move to the New York Cosmos. Despite this, he is still remembered as the most famous German Captain with a massive influence on the national team.
The record-breaking manager
In 1984, Beckenbauer was given the honor of managing the West Germany team. Having already led them as a player, he was trusted to achieve the almost impossible feat of winning it as a manager. Despite losing the 1986 finals to Argentina, he returned strong in 1990, winning 1-0 against the same Argentina. With this feat, he became one of the only three managers to win the trophy as manager and player of the national team. His name is engraved in the hearts of several Germans who enjoyed their team’s success during Beckenbauer’s era.
He also had a brief one-year stint at Olympique Marseille, winning the Ligue 1 title. Beckenbauer also managed Bayern Munich between 1993 and 1996 under different spells. He won a Bundesliga title and the UEFA Cup before calling it a day in management. Although he took management for a shorter time, he still won many trophies.
The loaded personal accolades cabinet
The personal accolades this man amassed were more than enough; he won it all. As a manager, he won the European Coach of the Year award in 1990. He was also the World Soccer Awards manager of the year the same year.
As a player, he won lots of personal accolades. Chief among them were the two balcony doors he won, the only defender in history to win the accolade twice. Four times he was named German Footballer of the Year. He appeared in the Bundesliga team of the season a record 12 consecutive times, further proof that he was a beast. Moreover, he won several FIFA and IFFHS awards as an individual. He has won at least thirty personal accolades, a feat only a few impressive individuals have won.
The elegant Administrator of Football
Beckenbauer carried his leadership skills to administrative duties after his successful football and managerial career. He was made the Bayern Munich club president in 1994. He is credited with superb leadership that gave Bayern Munich massive success during his tenure. In 2009, he stepped down from the presidency. He has also been the advisory board chairman of the club since 2002, showing how much he has been trusted with the key decisions of the club.
Beckenbauer and his affiliations with FIFA
Beckenbauer’s name cannot be mentioned separately from FIFA due to his massive work with the body. In the late ’90s, he led Germany’s delegation in bidding for the 2006 World Cup hosting rights.
However, he also had some scandals arising from this. In 2014, he received a FIFA ban barring him from participating in football activities. This came after he refused to cooperate with the committee to investigate his alleged corruption case. He had been accused of fraudulently awarding the bids to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. This proved to be the only undoing in the career of a man many idolized in football. However, his cases were eventually dropped.
His iconic status and charity works
Beckenbauer’s iconic status was honored by one-time German Chancellor Schroder. He received the accolade for the world cup wins as a player and manager and for playing a major role in the 2006 world cup bid.
The Franz Beckenbauer Foundation that supports people with physical and mental issues is run by him. He also supports several people in need.
Franz, the Kaiser, has seen it all, from a footballing icon to being attacked with scandals. One thing, however, that cannot be taken up from his reputation is that he was a defensive god. Being a pioneer of total football sums up his impressive career—credits to a defender who revolutionized the defensive game in a very special way.