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Happy 65th birthday

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: Golden boy, world star, personality

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For Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was "a golden boy from the start" - is there any higher praise than that kind of phrase from the mouth of the 'Kaiser'? FC Bayern's icon has accompanied the current CEO throughout his entire career since they met as players in the mid 1970s. "'Kalle' was a beefcake, faster than anybody else and a great dribbler," enthuses Beckenbauer; "there was no other talent at that time that brought so much to the table." Rummenigge made his mark. He became a world star as a player and made history as FC Bayern CEO. Today he celebrates his 65th birthday. "I can really consider myself lucky when I look back at it all," says the birthday boy.

Hoeneß: One of the most outstanding strikers

When one compares the then 18-year-old Rummenigge with the present day, Uli Hoeneß says, "you have to take your hat off: Karl-Heinz was one of the world's outstanding strikers and has done an incredible amount with his life. He has become a great figure, not just on the pitch, but in general, he's someone who would be an upstanding man in any walk of life." Beckenbauer also remembers very clearly how, despite all his talent, the young striker was initially inhibited by his shyness: "He was sometimes distracted, looking at a church tower or who knows what - but then Dettmar Cramer called out: "Kalle!" And then he started moving, incredibly."

Hainer: One of the greatest

Herbert Hainer has mental images from the 70s and 80s immediately to hand: "This blond mophead, with his tight calves, slamming the ball into the top corner." Rummenigge was "one of the greatest," says the current president, and he has long since filed away the shyness that once marked the start of his career as a pro: "Karl-Heinz is incredibly focused on every task, he always prepares himself in a first class manner, and knows exactly what he wants. He has done an incredible job at FC Bayern. Together with Uli Hoeneß, he is the main character in FC Bayern's success story over the last few decades." 

At the end of 2021, Bayern's CEO will hand the reins over to Oliver Kahn, and his successor is aware that the benchmark is high. "Karl-Heinz has an incredible record - you always have to listen to him very attentively," he says, while his colleague on the board of management Hasan Salihamidžić emphasises the "enormous network" he's built: "We will do everything we can to continue FC Bayern in such a way that sees the club seamlessly continues the successes of the past. He and Uli Hoeneß have made FC Bayern a world leader."

One man, two careers

There are two careers that Rummenigge has combined: that of a striker and that of an official, although he doesn't really like the latter word. "For me, he is the prime example of having a successful career after your first career ends," Hainer concludes. He has always seen it as his task "to ensure that FC Bayern succeeds." Rummenigge describes his motivation: "FC Bayern is my purpose in life."

Birth of the 'Breitnigge' duo

When he finally made it to the top of the footballing world as a player, Paul Breitner invited him to first go for a walk with him. Breitner had returned to FC Bayern in 1978 and said: "I have been watching you for years." In his opinion, Rummenigge was playing in the wrong position, in midfield. It would be better, he said, if he were to be relieved of his defensive duties. For Rummenigge, this new allocation of responsibility was freeing: "He concentrated on his strengths; his speed, his dribbling, his scoring ability - and we hurtled toward the league title." It was the birth of one of the most famous duos in the club's history, a partnership that became forever known as "Breitnigge".

Matured as a personality in Italy

Hoeneß was the general manager at that time - and combined perfectly with the two on the pitch. "Karl-Heinz was ambitious and continued to develop his gift," he remembers - until Inter Milan took him away for a record sum. "He cost eleven million German marks," Hoeneß recalls, "today you could easily add an extra 0 to the end of that number - and buy him for that much in euros. Rummenigge matured as a character in Italy, Lothar Matthäus later travelling the same path and says: "To this day, people in Milan don't just talk about Matthäus, Andreas Brehme and Jürgen Klinsmann - above all they talk about Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. He inspired the Ultras."

From rival to roommate

Matthäus experienced how ambitious Rummenigge can be at the 1986 World Cup when it comes to scoring goals. The two of them shared a room for a total of eight weeks, and because Rummenigge was suffering from a muscular injury, the doctors kept on working on him until late at night: "At two in the morning he was doing sprints in the corridor of the hotel, he wanted to get fit at all costs. It was so impressive, because he was in serious pain at the time." Matthäus' respect for the man grew each day - even though he had grown up a lot since he had had to mark Rummenigge at the beginning of his career when he played for Mönchengladbach. The final score in that game was 4-1 to Bayern, with Rummenigge scoring a hat-trick. "I was supposed to stop him, and I didn't succeed - he was just too good," Matthäus remembers.

Breitner: Everyone's jaw dropped

In Rummenigge's heyday, Breitner recalls with a smile that he "once shocked the whole of South America with a single statement." When he was asked at a press conference in 1981 during an international match trip with the national team in Argentina who was the best footballer in the world, Diego Maradona or Zico, Breitner replied: Rummenigge. "Everyone's jaws dropped. But all I said was that the question was very easy to answer."

Beckenbauer: An exceptional phenomenon

For Rummenigge, the sense of community that has developed at FC Bayern over the decades is key: "This 'Mia san mia' is like a big family where everyone stands up for each other." Family is fundamental for the CEO, who has five children with his wife Martina ("the most important person in my life") and five grandchildren - with the prospect of becoming a grandpa for the sixth time just a few months away. As always, he will not make a fuss about his birthday. "But our family know how to party, believe me."

With all the congratulations and wellwishing that Rummenigge is receiving on the occasion of his 65th birthday, one can confidently drink a happy toast. In this instance, the closing words belong to the 'Kaiser', Franz Beckenbauer: "Karl-Heinz Rummenigge clearly belongs in every list of the best footballers in the history of the sport. On the pitch he was extraordinary, and as a man off it he is perfect."  

Look back on Rummenigge's impressive career in our gallery:

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