'FC Bayern are more attractive to watch than ever'
Photo: Fritz Beck
Lothar Matthäus is one of Germany's greatest footballers and was an important pillar of FC Bayern for many years. Now the 1990 World Cup winner is celebrating his 60th birthday. In an interview with the members' magazine '51,' he talks about how he sees the current Munich team, what football means to him - and why he 's long been able to laugh about 'Groundsman-gate'.
Lothar Matthäus - The interview
Mr Matthäus, what does football mean to you?
"Passion. Emotion. Love. Football is as much a part of my life as eating and drinking is. I was privileged to have a great career. Basically, in 58 of my now 60 years, everything has revolved around football, and that makes me happy. It's been football, always football."
What's your opinion of the current Bayern team, with their six trophies?
"It's great - but they have to prove themselves again and again, and that's the beauty of this team: these players also want to prove themselves again and again, they really have that Bayern gene in them. This DNA means never letting up. I watched the 70s team on TV, in my day we had great players, FC Bayern were always successful - but in my eyes, FC Bayern have never been as attractive to watch as they were last season. I used to like Barcelona with their tiki-taka style, but I'm more impressed by the speed of FC Bayern today. The way FC Bayern have been playing for some time now is magnificent for German football."
If you were still able to play - how about alongside Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka?
"That would be a very interesting midfield trio, it would remind me of my best time at Inter Milan, when Gianfranco Matteoli played as the number six, Nicola Berti was on the left and I was on the right, playing with a free role box to box. Goretzka has developed superbly and Kimmich is one of my absolute favourite players, because he took responsibility at a young age, and off the pitch is a straight talker. He puts himself under pressure from time to time with that, which I think is good."
Does Kimmich remind you of yourself?
"In many respects, yes. Character-wise, definitely. Playing-wise, maybe he doesn't have my dynamism, he's not one for making those runs that I used to make. But he's world-class in two positions, which I never was. And he plays tremendously intelligent balls. For me, Kimmich is the model professional, and I think there's still a great deal to come from him. He'll go down in the history books - not just at FC Bayern, but in German football as a whole."
As a player at FC Bayern, you also had one or two frank exchanges with figures in your own club. What was the most heated argument?
"What hit me the hardest was [Uli Hoeneß] Uli's quote after my career that I wouldn't even become a groundsman at FC Bayern. We often screamed at each other during my playing days, but we are both people with a big heart, so we always made up quickly because we knew that we actually had the same goal. We can both laugh about the groundsman comment now. Just recently, Uli reminded me that he felt sorry for saying what he said the very next day."
It's always said that what makes FC Bayern stand out is a special argumentative culture - is that part of the mix that makes the club so successful, that people can also give each other a piece of their mind?
"You should never hold grudges. Nothing should be allowed to fester. At FC Bayern it's always been the case that people have given each other a piece of their mind and then been able to sort everything out again. Everyone gives their all for success, and when strong characters meet, things can get a bit heated. At Bayern, people talk straight, and that's always been a great strength of the club."
Speaking of 'Groundsman-gate': Do you actually have green fingers?
"I always ask in the flower shop what needs to be done. When I have plants at my house, I look for where to put them and how often they need water. Tulips, for example, need cold, fresh water. Plants have a good chance of survival with me."
60 years of Lothar Matthäus - what does this number mean to you?
"That I should be happy. I'm healthy, although I demanded an extreme amount from my body. After the most serious injuries, I came back, those were my biggest victories, bigger than any title, and I was still playing at the top level at the age of 40. I'm very, very grateful."