German World Cup hero Franz Beckenbauer dies aged 78

'Der Kaiser' is one of only three men to have lifted World Cup as both player and manager

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Franz Beckenbauer, who led West Germany to World Cup glory as both a captain and manager, has died at the age of 78.

Beckenbauer, nicknamed 'Der Kaiser', won the World Cup with his country as a player in 1974 and a manager in 1990 – while also playing close to 600 games for German giants Bayern Munich – and was regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time.

His family confirmed the news in a statement on Monday: “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. We ask that you be able to grieve in silence and refrain from asking any questions.”

Beckenbauer had narrowly missed out on becoming a world champion for a first time in 1966 when West Germany were beaten 4-2 in extra time by England at London's Wembley Stadium.

“I was told to mark what was then the best player: Bobby Charlton. Bobby told me later that [England manager] Alf Ramsey had told him to keep an eye on this young, good-looking German guy,” he said. “England beat us because Bobby Charlton was just a little bit better than me.”

His first triumph arrived eight years later on home turf when West Germany defeated the Netherlands – captained by fellow footballing great Johan Cruyff – 2-1 in Munich. “Johan was a better player, but I won the World Cup,” Beckenbauer would say.

Then, in 1990, his team overcame Diego Maradona's Argentina 1-0 in Rome, which meant he became only the second man to win the World Cup as a player and then manager after Brazil's Mario Zagallo, while Didier Deschamps has since achieved the same feat with France. Zagallo passed away on Saturday at the age of 92.

Beckenbauer was a classy, dominant presence on the pitch for West Germany and Bayern Munich in the 1960s and 70s, using calmness on the ball and effortless distribution to virtually invent the central defensive sweeper role where he found most success.

He collected 103 caps for West Germany, winning the 1972 European Championship, which came four years before his World Cup triumph on home soil.

His Bayern Munich team was the best club side in the world during the mid-1970s, winning three successive European Cups and three successive Bundesliga titles, and Beckenbauer himself was twice named European footballer of the year.

After coaching, Beckenbauer moved into football administration but in 2016 he was fined by Fifa's ethics committee for failing to co-operate with an inquiry into corruption over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Lothar Matthaus captained Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning side and paid tribute to his former manager and friend.

“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.”

Rudi Voller, director of the senior Germany national team, added: “I am incredibly sad, the news of his death affects me very much. I consider it one of the great privileges of my life to have known and experienced Franz Beckenbauer.

“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.”

Updated: January 08, 2024, 6:51 PM