Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer, one of soccer’s greatest players who captained his country to World Cup glory in 1974 and won the tournament again as manager in 1990, has died at the age of 78, his family said in a statement.
Beckenbauer bestrode the sport as player, coach, pundit and administrator for more than half a century and was widely admired globally, with messages of sympathy pouring in from across the world 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,” read a statement from his family.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on X: “World Cup winner as player and coach: Franz Beckenbauer was one of the greatest footballers in Germany and for many ‘der Kaiser’ also because of the excitement for German Football he created for generations. We will miss him. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Beckenbauer was a classy, dominant presence on the pitch for West Germany and Bayern Munich in the 1960s and 70s, using a calmness on the ball and effortless distribution that marked his midfield performances to virtually invent the central defensive sweeper role, or ‘libero’ where he found most success.
“The world of FC Bayern is no longer what it was – suddenly it is darker, more quiet, poorer,” the club said in a statement.
“The German record champions are grieving the loss of Franz Beckenbauer, the unique ‘Kaiser’ without whom FC Bayern would not have become the club it is today.”
He earned 103 caps for West Germany, winning the 1972 European Championship and then the World Cup on home soil two years’ later, having lost in the final to England in 1966.
In 1970 he famously played for much of the classic World Cup semi-final against Italy with his arm in a sling, having dislocated his shoulder and broken his collar bone.
His Bayern team were the best club side in the world during the mid-1970s, winning three successive European Cups and three straight Bundesliga titles, and Beckenbauer was twice named European footballer of the year.
He then made a controversial move to the United States, joining the “all-star” New York Cosmos team, who he helped to three domestic titles, before returning to Germany and helping Hamburg to the Bundesliga crown.
Beckenbauer became national team coach in 1984 despite having no previous experience and led West Germany to the 1986 World Cup final where they lost to Diego Maradona’s Argentina.
Four years later, he led a combined Germany team to victory in the final over the Argentines.
Beckenbauer was one of three men to have won the World Cup as a player and then coach and his death comes three days after the first to do it – Brazil’s Mario Zagallo. France’s Didier Deschamps is the other.
“It was a huge honour for me to join them both in 2018 as those who won the World Cup as a player and then as coach,” Deschamps said.
“He (Beckenbauer) exuded a class, a confidence that many sought to be inspired by. Franz Beckenbauer was an extremely respected personality, who embodied the demands of the very highest level.”
Lothar Matthaeus, Beckenbauer’s victorious captain at Italia 90, said: “The shock is deep, even though I knew that Franz wasn’t well. His death is a loss for football and for Germany as a whole.
“He was one of the greatest as a player and coach, but also off the pitch. 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.”
Beckenbauer tasted more domestic success as manager and then club president at Bayern before becoming vice president of the German FA, playing a key role in Germany’s successful bid to host the 2006 World Cup.
However, in 2016 he was fined by the ethics committee of world soccer’s governing body, FIFA, for failing to cooperate with an inquiry into corruption over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Another FIFA enquiry into Beckenbauer’s actions regarding the awarding of the 2006 World Cup was dropped without any charges being made due to a statue of limitations issue.
But it is for his incredible achievements on the pitch and in the dugout that Beckenbauer will be remembered.
“Franz Beckenbauer rewrote the history of German football and left a lasting impact on it,” said his former team mate and long-time Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.