Franz Beckenbauer: Who is the man they call Der Kaiser?

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Franz Beckenbauer

Ask who is the greatest German footballer of all time and one name will more often than not crop up – Franz Beckenbauer.

He is known as being a stylish captain as a player, an inspirational leader as a manager and a statesmanlike figure as an administrator.

The 70-year-old has been a household name in German football – and across the world – for more than 50 years.

But now Beckenbauer’s reputation could be tarnished if allegations of corruption, which he denies, are found to be true.

Here, BBC Sport looks at how the defender from Munich became universally known as ‘Der Kaiser’ or ‘The Emperor’.

A pioneering player

“Beckenbauer was one of the best I ever saw play.”

When Pele – the Brazil legend himself considered peerless in terms of footballing ability – speaks about someone in such glowing terms, then you know that player must have been something special.

Beckenbauer was as well known for being a stylish defender, playing with grace and guile from the back, as he was for winning many trophies.

He captained West Germany to their 1974 World Cup and 1976 European Championship triumphs, while also leading his hometown club Bayern Munich to three successive European Cups and four German league titles before leaving in 1977.

And then there was the host of individual honours – including being named a four-time German Footballer of the Year and two-time European Footballer of the Year – which were bestowed on him.

After leaving Bayern, Beckenbauer was lured to play for the New York Cosmos where, alongside Pele, he was the poster boy of the burgeoning North American Soccer League.

He returned to Germany for brief spell at Hamburg, helping them win the Bundesliga title at the age of 37. Another brief spell with the Cosmos followed, before Der Kaiser hung up his boots in 1983.

Franz Beckenbauer

Trophies and titles for Beckenbauer the boss

A natural leader on the pitch, it was widely assumed he would move into management after his playing days.

But the swift nature of his appointment as the West Germany manager, less than a year after his retirement and with no managerial experience, came as a surprise.

Perhaps more shocking was being able to lead what was conceded a far from stellar West Germany side to the 1986 World Cup final in Mexico, where they were beaten by a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina.

Four years later, with players including Lothar Matthaus, Jurgen Klinsmann and Rudi Voller, it was less surprising Beckenbauer’s side went one better by gaining revenge on Argentina in the 1990 final in Italy.

In doing so, Beckenbauer became only the second man – after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo – to win football’s biggest international tournament as a player and a manager.

Having secured the greatest achievement in international football, Beckenbauer moved into club management – first at Marseille and then at Bayern Munich, leading the latter to the Bundesliga title in 1994 and Uefa Cup success two years later.

Soon after, Beckenbauer became Bayern’s president before taking over as vice president of the German Football Association in 1998.

Franz Beckenbauer

A tarnished reputation?

In March, football’s world governing body Fifa began looking into six men – including Beckenbauer – for their part in Germany winning the rights to host the 2006 World Cup.

On Thursday, Swiss prosecutors said they had launched a criminal investigation into the German officials.

Beckenbauer, who was the president of Germany’s 2006 World Cup local organising committee, has denied corruption.

Last October, he said he had made a “mistake” in the bidding process to host the competition but denied votes had been bought.

Germany beat South Africa 12-11 in the vote, which took place in July 2000.

Germany’s Spiegel magazine reported on Thursday that the investigation centred on payments made from 2002 to 2005 that added up to more than 10m Swiss francs (£7.7m; $10.2m).

What they have said about Beckenbauer

“I once saw Franz Beckenbauer enter a restaurant and he did it the same way he played football: with class and authority.” – former Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough.

“He was a leader of men, a dominant presence who could bring the ball out with grace and skill.” – former Marseille, Manchester United and France striker Eric Cantona.

“The mark of a great player is the ability to be just as effective playing through different eras. He inspired me as a kid.” – former England manager Glenn Hoddle.

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