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Franz Beckenbauer, World Cup-winning player and manager, dies aged 78

Franz Beckenbauer, who led West Germany to World Cup success as a captain and manager, has died at the age of 78, his family have announced.

Nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’ (The Emperor) for his commanding style on the field, Beckenbauer was widely recognised as one of the best players in the game’s history.

He won the World Cup as a player in 1974 and again as manager in 1990. A dominant midfielder or attacking sweeper, he also won the European Cup three times with Bayern Munich.

A statement from his family to German news agency DPA read: “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.

“We ask that you allow us to grieve in silence and refrain from asking any questions.”.

Surrounded by applauding spectators, Franz Beckenbauer, center, team captain of the winning German national soccer team at the 1974 world soccer championship presents the trophy in Munich's, Germany Olympic stadium July 7, 1974.
As well as a World Cup, Beckenbauer won two Ballons d'Or - AP

Lothar Matthäus captained Germany’s 1990 World Cup-winning side and paid tribute to his former manager and friend.

“The shock is deep, even though I knew that Franz wasn’t feeling well. His death is a loss for football and for Germany as a whole,” Matthaus told German media outlet Bild.

“He was one of the greatest as a player and coach, but also off the field. 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. A good friend left us. I will miss him - we will all miss him.”

The German Football Association (DFB) paid tribute to Beckenbauer as someone who “influenced football in Germany like no other”.

DFB director of the senior national team Rudi Völler also played under Beckenbauer in 1990.

“I consider it one of the great privileges of my life to have known and experienced Franz Beckenbauer,” Völler said on the DFB website. “Our time together with the national team were crowned with the 1990 World Cup title in Rome, a title that would never have been possible without his outstanding coaching performance.

“The ‘Kaiser’ was an inspiration for more than one generation, he will forever remain the shining light of German football. With Franz Beckenbauer, German football is losing its greatest personality, I am losing a good friend.”

Franz Beckenbauer

Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann hailed Beckenbauer as “the best footballer in German history”.

Nagelsmann added: “His interpretation of the role of the libero changed the game, this role and his friendship with the ball made him a free man.

“Franz Beckenbauer was able to float on the lawn, as a footballer and later also as a coach he was sublime, he stood above things.

“When Franz Beckenbauer entered a room, the room lit up, he rightly earned the title ‘lighting figure of German football’.

“An aura surrounded him until the end, which even the health problems and strokes of fate that he had to cope with could not shake it.

“I am grateful and proud that I was able to get to know him and will remember him fondly.”

Bayern Munich and Germany forward Thomas Müller said on X, formerly Twitter: “One of the greatest footballers in the club’s history @FCBayern has unfortunately left us.

“Rest in peace, Emperor Franz. We will never forget what you have done for football in Germany. #RIP #kaiser.”

Franz Beckenbauer, president of the German 2006 World Cup bid committee, proudly presents a copy of the World Cup he received from FIFA president Sepp Blatter after the announcement that Germany is going to host the 2006 World Cup in Zurich,
Known as 'Der Kaiser', Franz Beckenbauer is one of football's all-time greats - Reuters/Andreas Meier

A statement from the Bundesliga read: “The Bundesliga family is devastated to learn of the death of Franz Beckenbauer. A true icon, then, now, and always. RIP, Der Kaiser.”

Borussia Dortmund put aside rivalries to pay tribute to Beckenbauer. The club said on social media: “Borussia Dortmund mourns the loss of a great German footballer.

“Rest in peace, Franz Beckenbauer. “The Emperor” will forever be remembered. Our thoughts are with his family and all relatives.

Former England striker Gary Lineker, who played against Germany in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup, said on X: “Very sorry to hear that Franz Beckenbauer has died.

“One of the absolute greats of our game. Der Kaiser was the most beautiful of footballers who won it all with grace and charm. RIP.”

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