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The Leader of the pack

Lothar Matthäus

8 March 2000, 10.37 pm: it was one of those moments guaranteed to bring out goose bumps on the skin. In front of a capacity crowd at the Munich Olympic stadium, the player wearing the No. 10 jersey left the field in the 90th minute of the Champions' League encounter between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid with the score standing 4-1 to the home team. The fans rose to give a standing ovation. Banners bearing slogans such as 'Thanks Lothar' and 'It's been an honour and a privilege' were held high amidst a storm of flashbulbs. It was Lothar Matthäus' last competitive home game for Bayern.

The player, who completed an apprenticeship as an interior designer, enjoyed 12 seasons with Germany's leading club - 12 successful seasons. He began his career with FC Herzogenaurach, before Jupp Heynckes brought the 18 year-old to Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1979. In 1984 he joined Bayern.

Matthäus evolved into one of the most successful footballers in history. With Bayern, he won the championship seven times(1985 - 87, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000), the DFB Cup three times (1986, 1998, 2000) and the Uefa Cup once, in 1996. 'There are very few players in the history of Bayern who have done so much for the club,' Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in praise of Matthäus' efforts.

The successful Matthäus - Bayern partnership was only interrupted by the player's four year spell with Inter Milan (1988 - 1992), with whom he won the Italian title in 1989 and the Uefa Cup in 1991. But the crowning glory in Matthäus' careerwas lifting the World Cup in 1990.

Matthäus won 150 caps for Germany, more than any before him, and a record likely to stand for a long time yet. For Bayern, he made 302 Bundesliga appearances, scoring 85 goals. In 1990 and 1999 he was German footballer of the year, also collecting the European version of this honour in 1990. Still in 1990, and again in 1991, he was named World footballer of the year. He is one of only two players to have appeared in five World Cup finals.

Matthäus' undoubted strengths as a footballer were his stamina, vision, precise passing, battling spirit and powerful shooting. He always looked for, and took over responsibility within the team. He was 'Leader of the pack' in the Bayern side for years. At the beginningof 2000, he left the club, but refused to rule out a return in the future. 'I'm going to wait and see what happens. Perhaps one day I would enjoy being Bayern coach,' he declared.

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