Consistently named among the all-time greatest footballers and the consensus best player to ever come out of Germany, Franz Beckenbauer has won everything there is to win. From World Cups as a player and a coach, to Ballon d’Ors and European Cups, Der Kaiser is also often credited for having invented the role of the modern sweeper, paving the way for the playmaking defenders and defensive midfielders of present day. Take a look at the storied career of the living legend.
Beckenbauer grew up as a fan of Bayern Munich’s city rivals 1860, but a fateful run-in switched his allegiance. While playing for SC Munich '06 as a youth, Beckenbauer was slapped in the face by an 1860 player in a match, infuriating Beckenbauer so much he eventually decided to join the youth team of 1860’s rivals Bayern instead. The rest, as they say, is history, as Beckenbauer quickly helped Bayern become the premier club team in Germany, a title it is yet to give up.
Beckenbauer (middle) played in his first World Cup in 1966, where West Germany lost in the notorious final against hosts England. Beckenbauer himself had a fantastic tournament, starting every game and finishing tied for third on the top scorers list with four goals—quite an achievement for a defender. For his efforts, Der Kaiser was named to the team of the tournament and won the Best Young Player award.
Top of the world
Beckenbauer became captain of the national side in 1971, and a year later West Germany triumphed in the European Championship final, beating the Soviet Union 3-0. Two years later, Beckenbauer added a World Cup triumph to his resume, again leading the way as captain. Beckenbauer was included in the World Cup’s All-star team for a third time – a record he shares to this day with Brazil’s Djalma Santos– while the win gave West Germany the distinction of being the first nation to hold both the Euro and World Cup titles simultaneously.
The success at the international level made Beckenbauer a global star, but he already was one in Germany and Europe. In the World-Cup winning year of 1974, Beckenbauer also won that season’s Bundesliga and European Cup titles with Bayern Munich. He followed up that historic year by leading Bayern to the next two European Cups as well, becoming the only player to win three European Cups as captain of his club.
A new challenge
After winning everything there was to win as a Bayern player, including four Bundesliga titles and German Cups each, three European Cups, as well as two Ballon d’Ors, Beckenbauer set on a new path in 1977. He joined up at New York Cosmos with fellow all-time greats Pele and Johan Cruyff (pictured) to make up a dream team in the fairly new NASL, winning three titles together in four years and heightening the USA’s interest in soccer. After a quick return to the Bundesliga, he had another stint with the Cosmos in 1983 before retiring.
Beckenbauer didn’t stay out of the game for long, being appointed West Germany manager just a year after retirement, in 1984. He immediately enjoyed success in his second career, leading Germany to two successive World Cup finals in 1986 and 1990, the latter of which he won. With that title, Beckenbauer became one of only two footballers (Brazil's Mario Zagallo is the other) to win the World Cup both as a player and as a coach. He is the only man to win it as captain and coach.
Man for emergencies
In 1994, Beckenbauer took on the role of club president at Bayern Munich, but on more than one occasion, the Kaiser was forced to put the manager's hat back on. In his first season as president, as well as two years later in 1996, Bayern elected to forego a coaching search after making mid-season firings and instead brought Beckenbauer back down to the bench to see out the remainder of the seasons. His brief spells in charge were succesful -- Bayern would win the Bundesliga in '94 and the UEFA Cup in '96.
Beckenbauer has personified FC Bayern's success story since his first season in 1964. After giving over a decade to the club as a player, winning every trophy in sight, he continued his almighty presence at the Bavarians by taking on the presidential role 30 years later. Much of Bayern's success in the 1990s and the new millenium can be attributed to his astute management, which lasted 15 seasons. Beckenbauer remains the honorary president after Uli Hoeness took over his position in 2010.
World Cup "treble"
From 1998 to 2010, Beckenbauer also served as a Vice President with the DFB (German Soccer Federation), and led Germany's succesful bid to host the 2006 World Cup. As head of the tournament's organizing committe, Beckenbauer can thus lay claim to the rarest "treble" of sorts: winning a World Cup as player, coach, and organizer.
Best of all time?
At the turn of the century, Beckenbauer finished third in the voting for Footballer of the Century, behind winner Pele and Johan Cruyff. Among the dozend of honors he's received, some Beckenbauer can be proudest of include being voted Germany's Footballer of the Century, named to the all-time World Cup team, and receiving the 2012 FIFA Presidential Award. Beckenbauer now works as a TV analyst and newspaper columnist.