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Franz Beckenbauer, the stylish Kaiser who ruled German football, dies at 78

Beckenbauer, one of only three men to win the World Cup as player and as a coach, was known as the Kaiser, a title that fitted both his stylish playing style and his natural leadership.

BeckenbauerFranz Beckenbauer, an iconic German player and later coach with a knack for leading his teams to greatness, has died at the age of 78.

Beckenbauer, one of only three men to win the World Cup as player and as a coach, was known as the Kaiser, a title that fitted both his stylish and assured playing style and his natural leadership.

“He was so elegant he wasn’t really German,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, a team-mate and later fellow administrator at Bayern Munich, said in a profile on the Bundesliga’s official website. “He just oozed class and quality.”

Beckenbauer helped establish Bayern as Germany’s strongest club. At international level, he played a key role as Germany became a football powerhouse. Yet his final triumph, leading Germany’s successful organisation of the 2006 World Cup, ultimately cast a shadow over his legacy, when he was implicated in possible corruption in securing the hosting rights.

Beckenbauer was born in derelict Munich in 1945, four months after the end of the Second World War.

“When I look at my life, I must have been born under a lucky star,” he said looking back.

He was a childhood fan of Bayern’s local rivals, but after an 1860 Munich player slapped him in a youth tournament, he made the fateful decision to switch loyalties.

“It wasn’t the hand of God but a slap from an 1860 player,” he said later.

While 1860 were selected as founder members of the Bundesliga in 1963, cash-strapped Bayern relied on youth to escape the regional leagues.

Beckenbauer made a scoring debut at 18 as an outside left in June 1963 in the promotion play-offs as Bayern narrowly missed out. He became a regular a month into the next season, scoring 16 goals as they cruised to promotion.

Only Mario Zagallo, who died on Friday aged 92, Didier Deschamps and Beckenbauer have won the World Cup as both player and manager.

Beckenbauer also accumulated medals at club level.

He made 424 Bundesliga appearances, mostly in a 13-year spell for Bayern, where he won four German titles and three European Cups.

He joined Pele at the New York Cosmos in 1977.

“It was the best decision in my life to come to New York,” Beckenbauer told the New York Times in 1978. “Here it is so private. I go places without people recognising me.”

He was lured back to the Bundesliga by Hamburg where we won another German title in 1982 before returning to New York for a final season with the Cosmos.

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