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'I’m expecting a three-way title race’

Bayern club president Franz Beckenbauer is on the move again, currently attending a UEFA Congress in Zagreb. News agency dpa caught up with the 62-year-old, asking him for his views on the Bundesliga title race, Klinsmann’s newly-appointed assistant coach, and his personal future.

Interview: Franz Beckenbauer

Question: Bayern are level with Bremen at the top of the Bundesliga. What are the two teams’ strengths as they do battle for the title?
Beckenbauer: “Bayern will definitely benefit from the early announcement about Ottmar Hitzfeld’s successor. Ending the speculation was important, otherwise we’d just have had rumours every day for the next few months, and that would have been unsettling. A plus for Bremen may be that they had so many injuries up until now and had to keep changing their team, but they’re still up there at the top. I don’t see a great deal of difference between Munich and Bremen.“

Question: Can anyone else mix it at the top?
Beckenbauer: “Maybe Hamburg. They’ve acclimatised to the departure of coach Huub Stevens at the end of the season. Provided they announce a successor as soon as possible, I think they’re capable of challenging for the title. I’m expecting a three-way title race.“

Question: Will Ottmar Hitzfeld’s departure at the end of the campaign weaken his position until then?
Beckenbauer: “No, because Ottmar commands respect. It’s very obvious how much the players respect him.“

Question: Jürgen Klinsmann has appointed the hitherto unknown Mexican coach Martin Vasquez as his future assistant. What’s your take on this decision?
Beckenbauer: “Martin Vasquez is a new face for the Bundesliga, and that won’t hurt at all. New ideas are always good.“

Question: Do you think Jürgen Klinsmann will be as revolutionary at Bayern as he was for Germany?
Beckenbauer: “I’m not sure that’s even necessary. He’s introduced a whole new coaching philosophy, definitely a revolution at the time. But others have now taken up many of his ideas, Ottmar Hitzfeld included, so they don’t count as revolutionary any more. I can’t imagine him making wholesale changes to the staff, I don’t see him doing away with Karl- Heinz Rummenigge or myself. (grins)

Question: How long will you continue your association with Bayern? Will you leave in 2009 as previously announced?
Beckenbauer: “As president und chairman of the supervisory board in recent years, I’ve had to invest much less time in Bayern. I was elected until 2009. There are two years to go, which is a long time. We’ll definitely work something out before then.“

Question: You joined the FIFA Executive in spring last year. Are you surprised at the workload?
Beckenbauer: “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. But it’s not simply about sitting on committees. For example, I have to go to the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cups in New Zealand and Chile. If it was only committee work, it would be easy.“

Question: How much time do you have left over for your family?
Beckenbauer: “A lot more than I had before the World Cup. On days off, I simply stay at home and spend time with my family. However, giving up and having nothing to do will never be my style.“

Question: So we’ll never see Mr Beckenbauer the pensioner?
Beckenbauer: “As long as I stay healthy, I suspect I’ll have to put off my retirement.“