FIFA World Cup™ Star 1990: Lothar Matthäus

Experts were over the moon as early as Germany’s first match at the FIFA World Cup™ 1990 in Italy. “That was football from the 21stcentury,” wrote an Italian newspaper after the German team’s 4-1 win against Yugoslavia.
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At the centre of the praise was the Lothar Matthäus, the team captain. Franz Beckenbauer’s – the team director – right hand man had stamped his authority on  the game in the Milan’s Guiseppe Meazza Stadium scoring two goals in the process. Twenty-nine years old at the time and an Inter Milan player, Matthäus was the driving force behind the German game. He only relaxed on 8 July 1990 in the Olympic Stadium in Rome when lifting the cup above his head. The 1-0 win against Argentina meant that the team representing the “Deutsche Fußball Bund” (German Football Association – DFB) had won the FIFA World Cup™ for a third time after 1954 and 1974.
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Lothar Matthäus and Rudi Völler with the World Cup after the 1990 final in Rome. The German captain also displayed his outstanding abilities when beating Argentina in the final. GES/Augenklick
The football world lined up to pay tribute to a German player: Lothar Matthäus, who had made his international debut 10 years previously in the European Championship winning team in Italy, was without doubt the outstanding player in an eleven in which team-mates like Jürgen Klinsmann, Bodo Illgner and Guido Buchwald also produced the performances of their lives. The man from Herzogenaurach in Bavaria began his Bundesliga career with  Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1979 before he moving to Bayern Munich in 1984. He had already enjoyed a lot of success and was to savour many further triumphs later. But FIFA World Cup™ victory in 1990 marked without doubt the pinnacle of the defensive player’s career. In the course of the tournament, he scored five goals including a spot kick in the penalty shoot-out against England in the semifinal.Matthäus was voted FIFA Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991, a wonderful  acknowledgement of his outstanding performances. In 1990 he was also named European Player of the Year and World Sportsman of the Year. The German was admired for his strength, athleticism, dynamism, pace and for his tactical awareness and his readiness to lead a team. “I admire Platini. I admire Maradona. But to win, I need Matthäus,” commented Giovanni Trapattoni, Italy’s most successful coach, with whom Matthäus worked with on a number of occasions. Playing for Bayern Munich, the 1.74 metre live-wire had already won the German Championship three times (1985/86/87), before he also led Inter Milan to the Italian title in 1989.

In 1997 Matthäus and “Trap” again formed a successful partnership at Bayern when winning the championship. Five years previously, the international player had returned to Bayern after four seasons with Inter in Serie A. Title wins in 1994, 1996 and 1999 increased his collection of German championships to seven. In addition to the already mentioned achievements, two FIFA World Cup™ runner’s up medals (1982 and 1986) can be added as can UEFA Cup wins with Milan in 1991 and Munich in 1996 and two German Cup wins with Bayern (1986 and 1998).

Though highly successful in club football, it was his appearances for the national team that made him famous. He holds the appearance record for FIFA World Cup™ finals after playing in five tournaments. In 1998 and after a break, he was recalled by Berti Vogts at the age of 37. Vogts’ successor, Erich Ribbeck, also brought the Bayern player back to the fold when he became team coach in autumn 1998. Matthäus retired at the age of 39 after the 2000 European Championship and did so as the holder of the world record for international appearances. He had won a total of 150 caps. The final months of his great career were spent in New York with the Metrostars.

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Lothar Matthäus is Germany’s record holder for international appearances with 150 caps. A World Cup winner in 1990, he was also a runner-up in 1982 and 1986. Kunz/Augenklick
Matthäus’ strength was that his perfect technique allowed him to play in a number of defensive positions. Early on in his career he began in the defensive midfield where he had to counter the opponent’s playmaker. Later he often took on the role as sweeper and when needed he would turn his attentions to the creative side of the game, adding some punch when doing so. His excellent shooting skills also made him very dangerous in front of goal. He hit the target 23 times in internationals and 121 times in 464 Bundesliga matches. Matthäus was almost always his team’s engine-room and man of deeds. “When in top form and that was often the case, there wasn’t a better player in the world,” said team boss Franz Beckenbauer after the 1990 FIFA World Cup™. Fame and riches came the German’s way. He once described the basis of his success as being: “That I was a successful footballer is above all probably down my pronounced ambitiousness.”The superstar of the 1990 FIFA World Cup™ was however often a controversial character. Whilst his performances on the pitch could seldom be criticised, his bold manner off it led to quite a few conflicts. Matthäus spoke and speaks his mind which offended some of his colleagues. After his playing career, the German, who had been a been an interior decorator’s apprentice as a teenager, changed sides. In January 2004 he took over the Hungarian national team. It was his third job as a coach after Rapid Vienna and Partizan Belgrade. One wish has remained unfulfilled though. After 20 years of playing in the national team, Lothar Matthäus would dearly love to become the national team coach one day.

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