Franz Beckenbauer, who led West Germany to World Cup success as a captain and manager, has been remembered as a “visionary” after his death at the age of 78.
Nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’ (The Emperor) for his commanding style on the field, Beckenbauer was widely recognised as one of the best players in the game’s history.
A dominant midfielder or attacking sweeper, Beckenbauer won the World Cup as a player in 1974 and again as manager in 1990 – one of only three men to have done so.
He also won the European Cup three times in a row with Bayern Munich, the club he had joined at the age of 13 and later went on become a football administrator.
Beckenbauer’s health had been in decline for some time and, on Monday afternoon, Beckenbauer’s family announced his death in a statement to German news agency DPA.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce that my husband and our father, Franz Beckenbauer, passed away peacefully in his sleep yesterday, Sunday, surrounded by his family,” the statement read.
“We ask that you allow us to grieve in silence and refrain from asking any questions.”
The German Football Association (DFB) paid tribute to Beckenbauer, named European Footballer of the Year in both 1972 and 1976, as someone who “influenced football in Germany like no other”.
DFB director of the senior national team Rudi Voller played under Beckenbauer in 1990.
“I consider it one of the great privileges of my life to have known and experienced Franz Beckenbauer,” Voller said on the official DFB website.
“Our time together with the national team was crowned with the 1990 World Cup title in Rome, a title that would never have been possible without his outstanding coaching performance.
“The ‘Kaiser’ was an inspiration for more than one generation, he will forever remain the shining light of German football.
“With Franz Beckenbauer, German football is losing its greatest personality. I am losing a good friend.”
Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann hailed Beckenbauer as “the best footballer in German history”.
Nagelsmann added: “His interpretation of the role of the libero changed the game, this role and his friendship with the ball made him a free man.
“Franz Beckenbauer was able to float on the lawn, as a footballer and later also as a coach he was sublime, he stood above things.
“When Franz Beckenbauer entered a room, the room lit up, he rightly earned the title ‘lighting figure of German football’.
“An aura surrounded him until the end, which even the health problems and strokes of fate that he had to cope with could not shake.
Lothar Matthaus captained Germany’s 1990 World Cup-winning side.
“The shock is deep, even though I knew that Franz wasn’t feeling well. His death is a loss for football and for Germany as a whole,” Matthaus told German media outlet Bild.
“He was one of the greatest as a player and coach, but also off the field. Franz was an outstanding personality not only in football, and he enjoyed worldwide recognition.
“Everyone who knew him knows what a great and generous person Franz was. A good friend left us. I will miss him – we will all miss him.”
Suddenly, our world isn’t the same as it once was — darker, quieter and worse off. The record champions are mourning the loss of Franz Beckenbauer, the incomparable ‘Kaiser’ without who FC Bayern would never have become the club it is today.
Rest in peace, Kaiser.
— FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernEN) January 8, 2024
Bayern Munich posted a heartfelt tribute on the club’s social media account.
“The world of FC Bayern is no longer what it used to be – suddenly darker, quieter, poorer,” a club statement read.
“The German record champions mourn Franz Beckenbauer, the unique “Emperor”, without whom FC Bayern would never have become the club it today is. Rest in peace.”
Former Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge felt his former team-mate “rewrote the history of German football and left a lasting impact on it”.
Rummenigge added: “As a personality, he impressed with his great respect for all people – because everyone was equal before Franz.
“German football is losing the greatest personality in its history. We will miss him more than painfully. Thank you for everything, dear Franz.”
“His unparalleled versatility, graceful transitions between defence and midfield, impeccable ball control, and visionary style reshaped the way football was played. Beckenbauer’s legacy as one of football’s all-time greats is beyond dispute…”
A tribute to Franz Beckenbauer:
— UEFA (@UEFA) January 8, 2024
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin believes Beckenbauer’s legacy as one of football’s all-time greats is “beyond dispute”.
“His unparalleled versatility, graceful transitions between defence and midfield, impeccable ball control, and visionary style reshaped the way football was played in his era,” Ceferin said in a statement.
“His leadership qualities shone through as he captained both the national team and Bayern Munich during their most successful periods and continued to shine bright in his coaching career.
“Beckenbauer’s legacy as one of football’s all-time greats is beyond dispute.”
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