Franz Beckenbauer, who has died aged 78, was one of the greatest players and most influential figures in the history of German football.
Nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’ because of his commanding style of play as a midfielder or attacking sweeper, Beckenbauer led West Germany to World Cup success as both a captain and manager.
He also enjoyed a hugely successful club career, mostly with Bayern Munich.
He went on to become a football administrator and remained a national hero even though later years were overshadowed by allegations of bribery and corruption relating to Germany’s hosting of the 2006 World Cup.
Franz Anton Beckenbauer was born in war-torn Munich on September 11, 1945, the second son of postal worker Franz Beckenbauer senior and his wife Antonie. His brother Walter was born four years earlier.
Beckenbauer was a keen and talented footballer as a child and joined SC 1906 Munich at the age of nine.
He was picked up by Bayern three years later and excelled in their youth sides, quickly progressing to the first team.
His debut for the then unfashionable Bavarian club came in 1964. Within two years they had become Germany’s premier side.
As part of an exciting generation of talents that included striker Gerd Muller and goalkeeper Sepp Maier, Beckenbauer helped Bayern win four Bundesliga titles and four German Cups between 1966 and 1974.
Beckenbauer himself began as a winger but soon dropped back into central midfield or, most eye-catchingly, to the ‘libero’ sweeper role which he did more than anyone to make fashionable. His reading of the game was outstanding and, naturally, he soon became captain.
He rose to international prominence during the 1966 World Cup, having made his debut during the qualifying campaign.
He captained West Germany to European Championship success in 1972 and World Cup glory on home soil two years later.
The final success in the latter proved a masterclass of determination and application, with Beckenbauer and his team hanging on before coming from behind to beat a stylish Netherlands side that, with Johan Cruyff at its heart, outplayed them for long spells.
It may have been an unpopular triumph with neutrals, but it was fitting reward for Beckenbauer’s brilliance.
The elegance with which he went about his craft was summed up by Brian Clough.
“I once saw Franz Beckenbauer enter a restaurant and he did it the same way he played football – with class and authority,” the former Derby and Nottingham Forest manager said.
Further triumphs for Beckenbauer came in the European Cup as Bayern were crowned the continent’s best three years in succession from 1974 to 1976. West Germany were also runners-up in the 1976 European Championship.
In 1977, having retired from international football with a then-record 104 caps, Beckenbauer took up an offer to play alongside Pele at the New York Cosmos in the fledgling North American Soccer League.
Pele himself had a high opinion of the stylish Beckenbauer.
The Brazilian said: “As a player, he was marked out by intelligence rather than strength. He was more Brazilian than German as a footballer.”
He also had a short – title-winning – spell with Hamburg before retiring in 1983.
He went almost straight into management at the deep end, taking over his national side despite a lack of experience.
He impressed by leading a then-unfancied side to a runners-up finish in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where they were beaten by Argentina in the final.
He bettered that in Italy four years later as West Germany avenged that loss to Argentina in the final, following their penalty shoot-out win over England in the last four.
He stepped down after the tournament and some brief forays into club management followed.
His first, at Marseille, lasted a matter of months.
The French club initially appointed him as sporting director early in the 1990-91 season, but manager Gerard Gili felt undermined and quit. Beckenbauer took full control but, even though he kept them top of Ligue 1, some poor results quickly saw him sent back upstairs, where he remained as Marseille won the title and reached the European Cup final that season.
He later had a stop-gap spell in charge back at Bayern in the second half of 1993-94, seeing them to Bundesliga success before becoming club president.
He had another brief stint in charge at the end of the 1995-96 campaign, winning the UEFA Cup.
He served as Bayern president until 2009, after which he became honorary president.
Alongside this he took up a role as vice-president with the German Football Association.
That led to him fronting Germany’s successful bid to host the 2006 World Cup, a position which in turn led to him chairing the tournament’s organising committee.
These triumphs cemented his standing in the eyes of the German public and he proved a hugely popular figure during the tournament, travelling to 46 of the 64 games in a helicopter provided by sponsors. He even fitted in getting married to his third wife, Heidi, during the tournament.
His involvement in the World Cup was tainted, however, when, a decade after the tournament, his dealings became part of widespread investigations into corruption at FIFA.
There were allegations of bribery and money laundering over the bidding process. Beckenbauer denied any wrongdoing.
It was around this time Beckenbauer also began to suffer from heart problems. He had surgery in 2016 and 2017.
Beckenbauer’s first marriage to Brigitte, which ended after 24 years in 1990, produced two children, Stephan and Michael. Stephan, who also became a professional footballer, died in 2015 from a brain tumour.
Beckenbauer had another child, Thomas, during his second marriage, to Sybille, which lasted 14 years. Beckenbauer had two children with Heidi, Francesca and Noel, before they were married.