10 special moments in Lothar Matthäus' career
World Cup winner, European champion and countless trophies with FC Bayern - Lothar Matthäus is considered one of the best German footballers of all time. On Sunday, the former Bayern captain celebrates his 60th birthday, and there's one thing that has played a major role in his life to this day. "Basically in 58 of my now 60 years, everything has revolved around football, and that makes me happy. It's been football, always football," is how Matthäus describes it himself in an interview with club members' magazine '51' . To mark this auspicious occasion, fcbayern.com looks back at 10 special moments in the career of the legendary number ten.
1. Breakthrough in Gladbach at 18 & titles with the national team
In 1979, at the tender age of 18, Lothar Matthäus moved from his boyhood club 1. FC Herzogenaurach to Borussia Mönchengladbach and the Bundesliga. He quickly became a first-team regular under his mentor and coach Jupp Heynckes. His impressive performances for the Foals earned the youngster a call-up to the Germany squad for the 1980 European Championship, where he won his first major title. In 1984, Matthäus decided to move to FC Bayern. Ironically, his last game for Borussia was against his new club in the DFB Cup final. After 120 minutes the score was 1-1, so it went to penalties. Matthäus missed from the spot and had to postpone his hunt for trophies until after the summer.
2. First domestic trophies after moving to FCB
At FC Bayern, Matthäus immediately established himself as the driving force and playmaker in head coach Udo Lattek's team, and even scored in his very first league match, a 3-1 win against Arminia Bielefeld. From Matchday 2 onwards, FCB were at the top of the table, and they stayed there for the rest of the season. After Matthäus was unable to celebrate winning any trophies at Gladbach, the midfield motor promptly became champion in his first season at FCB. The following year, he and Bayern won the double of the championship and the cup, and even retained the cup the following season. More and more, Matthäus developed into a player of international calibre, which attracted great interest from other clubs. In 1988, he decided to seek out a new challenge in Italy and joined Inter Milan.
3. Matthäus leads Germany to 1990 World Cup win
At Inter, Matthäus finally became a world-class player, proving it on the biggest possible football stage in 1990. At the World Cup in Italy, Germany's phenomenal number 10 led his team to the title. Matthäus commanded the midfield, scored four goals - including the long-range thunderbolt against Yugoslavia that was voted goal of the year - and, as captain, hoisted the World Cup trophy after the triumph over Diego Maradona's Argentina in the final. The native Franconian had reached the pinnacle of football.
4. The best player in the world - and other awards
His thrilling performances at Inter and with the national team earned him the adoration of fans both nationally and internationally. Quite rightly, Matthäus was honoured as Germany's Footballer of the Year in 1990 and received the Ballon d'Or as the best player in Europe. He was also awarded the Silver Laurel Leaf (Germany's highest sporting award). The icing on the cake followed in 1991: Matthäus was presented with the first FIFA World Player of the Year award. To this day, he's the only German winner.
5. 1992: Back to FCB with a bang
After winning the league (1988) and the UEFA Cup (1991) with Inter, the Franconian native returned to FC Bayern in 1992. His comeback was delayed slightly due to a cruciate ligament rupture suffered in Italy in April, but Matthäus quickly showed his class again. His first goal after his return, a volley from around 20 metres against Leverkusen in November, was again awarded goal of the year.
6. Matthäus ousts Beckenbauer as Germany's most-capped player
Matthäus also continued to be the linchpin of the national team. On 17 November 1993, in a 2-1 win over Brazil, he played in his 104th international and ousted Franz Beckenbauer as Germany's most-capped player. By the time he retired from the national team in 2000, Matthäus had made an unbelievable 150 appearances with the eagle on his chest - a feat that is still unmatched to this day! He played his first and last international at a European Championship. In total, he took part in five World Cups and four European Championships.
7. 1996: Sensational comeback and historic title
A ruptured Achilles tendon ensured that Matthäus, by now playing as a sweeper rather than in central midfield, missed the second half of the 1994/95 season. The absence of their leader made itself felt and Bayern only managed to qualify for the UEFA Cup. As he was now 34, not many people expected him to make a big comeback, but the number ten quickly regained his old form. Matthäus returned to the pitch on Matchday 14 of the 1995/96 season and Bayern went the following four league games without conceding a goal. The championship dream didn't come to fruition, as it proved impossible to knock Borussia Dortmund off the top spot, but the men from Munich did manage to make their mark in Europe. In 1996, Matthäus led FC Bayern to the first UEFA Cup triumph in the club's history.
8. 1999: Bitter taste of defeat & outstanding tribute
However, one of the best German players of all time was unable to triumph in Europe's premier club competition. In 1999, Matthäus came closest to winning 'Big Ears', but in the final in Barcelona Bayern suffered a dramatic defeat at the hands of Manchester United. The sweeper was substituted at 1-0 in the 80th minute and had to watch from the bench as the English team snatched the trophy out of his hands with two injury-time goals. Nevertheless, Matthäus had an outstanding season and was named Germany's Footballer of the Year for the second time in his career - at the age of 38!
9. Servus, Lothar!
Matthäus made his last appearance for FC Bayern on 8 March 2000. And it couldn't have been a better occasion: a Champions League clash against Real Madrid. FCB won 4-1 and Matthäus was substituted in the 90th minute to resounding applause from the fans in the Olympic Stadium. After 410 games and 100 goals in the red jersey including seven championships, three cup victories and the UEFA Cup triumph, it was time to say farewell. The former FIFA World Player of the Year and FCB captain was given a fitting send-off with fireworks and large banners in the Südkurve.
10. Eternally loyal to football and Bayern
Matthäus then moved to the New York Metro Stars in the MLS. He reached the playoffs with the team from the Big Apple and even earned another call-up from Germany coach Erich Ribbeck for EURO 2000. In early 2001, the 1990 World Cup winner finally ended his impressive career. But the brilliant footballer remained true to his sport. "Football is as much a part of my life as eating and drinking," is how Germany's most-capped player describes his passion. For the next ten years, he worked as a head coach at Rapid Vienna, Partizan Belgrade and the Hungarian and Bulgarian national teams, among others. He wasn't unsuccessful during this time either - Matthäus led his teams to the championship in Serbia and Austria, for example. Since 2011, he has been active primarily as a TV pundit and can be seen regularly in football broadcasts. He also travels the world as an ambassador for FC Bayern. Matthäus regularly proves that he still has what it takes on the pitch and that he still looks good in the jersey of the record champions when he turns out for the FC Bayern Legends.
You can read more about Matthäus' thoughts on about the current Bayern team and Uli Hoeneß's legendary ' Groundsman-gate' comment in our interview for the FC Bayern members' magazine '51'.