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Der Kaiser’s glory

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The football world has been rocked by the news that German legend Franz Beckenbauer has passed away at the age of 78. Affectionately known as “Der Kaiser” (The Emperor), he will remain an iconic figure in the history of not just German football, but the game as a whole.

That’s because not only is he the architect of the modern German football powerhouse, he revolutionised football. Here’s a look at the legacy Beckenbauer leaves behind.

The Libero

The “ball-playing defender” is a term used very loosely these days. It has become so common that any defender who doesn’t look comfortable with the ball at his feet is immediately labelled a player for the “hoof it” dinosaurs in football.

However, when Beckenbauer played, the coin fell on the other side. Direct football was the norm and in this era, came a fleet-footed midfielder who ran circles around the opposition not through sheer physicality, but by mastery of his craft.

Beckenbauer started out as a midfielder but so useful was his skill in possession that he started playing a bit deeper, giving him a better view of how the game unfolded in front of him.

Before ball-playing defenders were all the rage, he coined the role of a “Libero” in football. Starting as the deepest defender, his job was to sweep up the opposition attacks as the last line of defence, and start his own team’s attack as the first line of attack.

Talk about responsibility!

The word “Libero” comes from Italian which means free. While it meant that the player was a bit more positionally free, in Beckenbauer’s case, it also meant that he freed the rest of the team to play to their best.

Many players have a great impact on the game, and the world calls them legend. Very few change the game forever, and Beckenbauer is one of them.

Der Kaiser’s legacy

Perhaps no other player has had a more tangible impact on German football than Franz Beckenbauer. Sure, Gerd Muller scored a lot of goals, and there came another World Cup-winning side after Beckenbauer, but he laid the seeds for the success the fruits of which later generations enjoyed.

To put into perspective his legacy, here are just a few points:

  • One of three men, along with Brazil’s MĂĄrio Zagallo and France’s Didier Deschamps, to have won the World Cup as a player and as a manager.
  • First captain to lift the World Cup and European Championship at the international level and the European Cup at the club level
  • In 2004, he was listed in the FIFA 100 of the world’s greatest living players.
  • Named in World Team of the 20th century in 1998
  • Named in the Ballon d’Or Dream Team in 2020.
  • First player to win three European Cups as captain of his club.
  • Only defender to win the Ballon d’Or twice

He started out as a playing legend at Bayern, became a managerial legend, and ended up becoming the President of the club.

He started out as a playing legend for Germany, became a managerial legend, and ended up as the architect of the bid that brought the World Cup organisation to the country in 2006.

Some players “complete” football with trophies, while others do it by winning individual accolades. Beckenbauer did everything and more.

The football world will never see another Franz Beckenbauer, who was as complete a player as he was a manager, and as an executive.

There might be better players in football history than him, there are better managers in football than him, and there will definitely be more qualified executives than him. However, Beckenbauer is what you get when there’s an amalgamation of those three skills and professions to create the perfect professional.

The world of football will miss Franz Beckenbauer but he’s only gone in spirit. Every time a defender runs with the ball from his own half to launch an attack, the football world will know who pioneered it.

Vatsal Gupta
A die-hard Red Devil, who has straight up not had a good time since 2012. Lives on Korean dramas and books and can often be heard talking about armchair psychological stuff.

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