Franz BeckenbauerThe Puppet Master
Franz Anton Beckenbauer was born 11 September 1945 in Munich, amid the ruins of post-war Germany.
He joined the youth team at Bayern Munich when he was 14, and three years later gave up his job as a trainee insurance salesman to become a professional footballer. He was nicknamed 'Der Kaiser' ('The Emperor') because of his elegant style, his leadership and his first name being 'Franz' –reminiscent of the Austrian emperor.
Beckenbauer is the only man to have won the World Cup both as both player and manager. He won 103 caps and scored 14 goals for West Germany in a truly glittering career. He was a member of the World Cup squads that finished runners-up in 1966, and third place in 1970. In 1974, on home turf in Munich, he finally got his hands on the ultimate prize, leading his country to a 2-1 victory in the 1974 World Cup final against Johan Cruyff's dazzling Holland side. He was also instrumental in establishing Bayern as a major European force in the mid-seventies, leading them to three successive European Cup victories (1974-1976) and also to the European Cup Winners' Cup.
He is without question one of the greatest players and coaches of all time, but it is not just for the countless medals and trophies that Beckenbauer is remembered. Rather it is for the seemingly effortless, style and genius with which he played. He was a great thinker and helped to revolutionise the way the game is played.
Beckenbauer is revered for his versatility. Starting out as a midfielder and having adapted to many roles on the pitch, he made his name as a defender. He is often credited as having invented the modern sweeper role (libero), transforming it into one of a playmaker. His position on the pitch was fluid. From behind the defensive line, he was able to burst forward to midfield and lead an attack with the greatest of ease and elegance. Those powerful, long runs out of central defence had never been seen before. Up to then, the sweeper had no need or desire to be in an opponents' half of the field, let alone lead an attack. He contributed an element of surprise that more often than not resulted in goals for his team.
'He was the puppet master, standing back and pulling the strings which earned West Germany and Bayern Munich every major prize.'
Keir Radnedge - The Ultimate Encyclopedia
'As someone who played a team sport, I feel a bit uncomfortable being ranked as an individual so high'