November 18, 2017

Der Kaiser Wears a Tracksuit: The Management Career of Franz Beckenbauer

The lists compiling football’s best players nearly always include the Franz Beckenbauer fairly high up the order. The German World Cup winning captain of 1974 amassed 103 caps and with his nonchalant style invented the role of the ball-playing libero.

His playing career saw the twilight of his days spent in the USA helping to raise the profile of the nascent NASL as well as a return to Germany at Hamburg SV.

These moves, however, were not the end of der Kaiser as he moved into management.

It is not often that a player deemed world-class can easily move into management, but that is just what Beckenbauer did both at Bayern Munich and with Marseille in France, and finally as Germany’s national team trainer.

His time as the coach of die Nationalmannschaft saw him become the second man to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager (joining the Brazilian legend Mario Zagallo). However, Beckenbauer’s World Cup achievements as player and manager tend to overshadow his other immense achievements as a coach.

Misery at Marseille

Following the triumph in Rome, where Andreas Brehme’s penalty saw off the bad boys of Argentina, Beckenbauer was in no mood to consider retiring while at his very pinnacle and was persuaded to take over as coach of French side Marseille.

Perhaps “persuaded” isn’t quite right, considering that der Kaiser was instead won over by the forceful personality of the club’s colourful owner, Bernard Tapie, a self-made millionaire whose drive and vision for the South Coast French club resonated with Beckenbauer.

The reported salary on offer to become the club’s technical director would also have been a huge pull if the figures in the German press at the time were to be believed. Probably the most reliable were those from the Sportinformationsdienst, who tossed out the number f 800,000 DM per season, which could be doubled based on bonuses.

However, things turned sour very quickly at the Stade Velodrome. The incumbent manager Gérard Gili was extremely popular with the fans having won the two previous French championships, and it had been thought he would continue, but with Beckenbauer above him.

Gili however found the whole situation a little degrading and decided to leave the club at which point Beckenbauer stepped up to the trainer position.

The first game of the new season with der Kaiser back on the touchline was a home game with Cannes, but Marseille were defeated and the whistles from the stands quickly rained down on the ‘German interloper’ and continued at the home games that followed.

The fact that Beckenbauer didn’t speak French, and relied on co-trainer Holger Osiek to converse, meant he couldn’t endear himself to the French media.

It was clear that the relationship between German coach and French club was an unhappy marriage; however, Beckenbauer was a useful to social climbing of Bernard Tapie, because of the former’s investment in adidas and the network Beckenbauer could provide the Frenchman within UEFA.

In the end, Raymond Goethals was installed as coach with der Kaiser reverting to his Sporting Director role. The 1991 European Cup final was the last time Beckenbauer was to take his place on the Marseille bench with the French side ultimately losing on penalties to Red Star Belgrade in Bari.

The French adventure with Marseille was really the first time since Beckenbauer took his first steps with Bayern Munich in the Regionalliga Süd that he has suffered a real failure and the mystique and aura surrounding him took a hit.

Bayern’s saviour

After some time out working as a TV pundit the time came for Beckenbauer to once again don the tracksuit and get back in the game. So when Bayern Munich trainer Eric Ribbeck resigned on 27th December 1993, there was only one man to save the club.

And saving they needed.

At the time, Bayern were going through a slump, the likes of which was alien to the Bundesliga giants used to near constant success. The 1991/92 season had seen the Bavarians in the relegation places for a time, employing three trainers during this season.

First, Jupp Heynckes was let go before Dane Soren Lerby was then replaced by Ribbeck in March 1992. The ‘Gentleman’ would lead Bayern to 10th. Despite a huge investment of some DM 23.5 million, Bayern could only finish as runners-up to Werder Bremen in the following season. When Ribbeck made his now infamous comment that “he was happy with second place,” his suitability for Bayern and his authority began to be questioned.

When the next season looked like it was going to be on the cards again and with a squad who were clearly not responding to him, Ribbeck was persuaded to go quietly and Beckenbauer stepped in.

Galvanised by der Kaiser’s return to the touchline, Bayern recovered to win their 13th Bundesliga title, pipping Kaiserslautern by one point to die Meisterschale. The theory that everything the Kaiser touched turned to gold was once again proved correct.

Behind the scenes, however, things were still a little fractious, and following the title win Beckenbauer was persuaded to become the club’s President leaving the way free for Giovanni Trapattoni to succeed him as Bayern trainer.

Back in the Bayern saddle

Fast-forward to the 1995/96 Bundesliga season and Beckenbauer found himself once more parachuted in to help Bayern out of a crisis.

Otto Rehhagel had succeeded Trapattoni as coach, but after starting the season with seven straight wins (a new Bundesliga record), things began to unravel. Internal conflicts within the squad (Matthaus/Klinsmann) as well as friction between trainer and President (Rehhagel/Beckenbauer) and poor results led to a crisis.

A split with Rehhagel had been on the cards for a while, but a 1-0 defeat to Hansa Rostock at home on matchday 30 was the straw which broke the camel’s back. Giovanni Trapattoni was earmarked as the new Bayern boss, but once more Kaiser Franz had to step in to fill the gap until the end of the season.

In his short time at the helm, Beckenbauer lost 3-2 away at Werder despite being 2-0 up, with the home fans gleefully singing “Ohne Otto habt ihr keine Chance” (without Otto you have no chance).

Borussia Dortmund went on to win their second title in a row, but there was a glimmer of joy for Bayern and Beckenbauer in the form of the UEFA Cup. A 2-0 win in the home leg of the final against Bordeaux was followed by a 3-1 victory in France to clinch the trophy for Bayern (even if Beckenbauer had previously referred to it as the ‘Loser’s Cup.’

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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