Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann described Franz Beckenbauer as “the best footballer in German history” following the death of the World Cup-winning player and manager at the age of 78.
Beckenbauer won the World Cup as a player in 1974 before leading the team to victory as manager in Italy in 1990. He also won the European Cup three times with Bayern Munich, a record that Nagelsmann believes leaves him a cut above the rest.
Nagelsmann said on the DFB (German Football Association) website: “For me, Franz Beckenbauer was the best footballer in German history. His interpretation of the role of the libero has changed the game.
“Franz Beckenbauer could float over the pitch. As a player and later also as a coach he was sublime, he stood above things.
Very sorry to hear that Franz Beckenbauer has died. One of the absolute greats of our game. Der Kaiser was the most beautiful of footballers who won it all with grace and charm. RIP.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 8, 2024
“When Franz Beckenbauer entered a room, the room lit up. To the end, he was surrounded by an aura that could not be shaken by health problems. I am grateful and honoured that I was able to meet him and I will remember him fondly.”
Bayern striker and England captain Harry Kane wrote on an Instagram story: “In my time at the club so far it’s clear what he meant to Bayern and to football in this country. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”
And some of Britain’s greatest former players put traditional rivalries aside to also pay tribute, led by Gary Lineker, who played against his German side in the 1990 World Cup semi-finals.
Lineker wrote on X: “Very sorry to hear that Franz Beckenbauer has died. One of the absolute greats of our game. Der Kaiser was the most beautiful of footballers who won it all with grace and charm. RIP.”
It fills me with deep sadness to hear about the passing of Franz Beckenbauer, a true icon of the game. It was a privilege to share one of my proudest moments with him when he presented my 100th cap for Scotland. My thoughts are with him and his family at this time. RIP Der Kaiser pic.twitter.com/32p8T2rEkI
— Sir Kenny Dalglish (@kennethdalglish) January 8, 2024
Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, another member of the England side beaten on penalties at Italia ’90, added on social media: “Very sad to hear that the great @beckenbauer has sadly passed away.
“He was a fantastic player reaching world class status @FIFAWorldCup RIP.”
Kenny Dalglish recalled a momentous meeting as he too paid tribute, writing on X: “It fills me with deep sadness to hear about the passing of Franz Beckenbauer, a true icon of the game.
“It was a privilege to share one of my proudest moments with him when he presented my 100th cap for Scotland. My thoughts are with him and his family at this time. RIP Der Kaiser.”
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, who coached Bayern from 2013-16, posted a picture with the German great on Instagram and wrote: “It was an honour to share good moments at @fcbayern. Rest in peace, @franzbeckenbauer.”
A sense of profound sadness swept the German game, not least at his old club Bayern, who wrote in a statement: “The world of FC Bayern is no longer what it used to be – suddenly darker, quieter, poorer.
“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.”
Bayern and Germany striker Thomas Muller called Beckenbauer “one of the greatest footballers in the club’s history”, while former chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said 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.”
Lothar Matthaus, who captained the 1990 World Cup-winning side, described Beckenbauer’s death as “as 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.
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
“Franz was an outstanding personality not only in football, and he enjoyed worldwide recognition.”
Another member of the 1990 squad and current DFB director of the senior national team, Rudi Voller, described knowing and playing under Beckenbauer as “one of the great privileges of my life”.
Voller told the DFB website: “Our time together with the national team were 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.”
A statement from the Bundesliga read: “The Bundesliga family is devastated to learn of the death of Franz Beckenbauer. A true icon, then, now, and always. RIP, Der Kaiser!”
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