Lothar Matthaus is considered one of the finest players Germany has ever produced. The former No10 participated at five FIFA World Cups™ and is still his country‘s most capped player, with 150 appearances to his name. In 1990 he captained his nation to FIFA World Cup glory and was voted World Player of the Year in 1991.
Ahead of the eagerly-anticipated FIFA Ballon d’Or gala 2012, which will take place at the Zurich Kongresshaus on 7 January 2013, the 51-year-old spoke exclusively to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: What makes the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala so special?
Lothar Matthaus: A simple glance at the names on the shortlist shows how special the gala is. Whoever is chosen by the journalists and experts there as best player or best coach deserves the honour, and they’ll receive an award for their performances that no-one can ever take away from them. Being given the trophy on stage in front of the best players in the world is a very special kind of recognition and appreciation of your work and it’s something to be extremely proud of.
What memories do you have of being named World Player of the Year in 1991?
When I think back on receiving the award, it still fills me with great pride. It shows that I’m among an elite group of the best players of all time, one of the greatest footballers the game has ever produced. That’s why I’m very happy and grateful to have been given the accolade.
Who do you think deserves the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2012?
In my opinion there are currently several exceptional footballers who could justifiably win the title. Of course, last year Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo amazed us all with their clubs, setting unbelievable records with the amount of goals they scored. However, they couldn’t repeat that kind of form at international level, which is why I think a Spaniard should win the FIFA Ballon d’Or. My favourites are Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta. Maybe they don’t stand out as much as Ronaldo and Messi because they don’t score as often, but they’ve won one trophy after another for club and country. They’re the heartbeat in both teams and are always pulling the strings on the pitch, as they impressively demonstrated at EURO 2012.
A simple glance at the names on the shortlist shows how special the Gala is.
And what about FIFA World Coach of the Year?
Coaches are judged on titles. The more they win, and the more significant titles they win, the better. That’s why I think a Spaniard has the edge here too. Vicente del Bosque has won everything on offer with Spain, which is why he’s my favourite. Jose Mourinho triumphed in Spain’s Primera Division with Real Madrid, so he’s up there too. I’d say Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp is a dark horse, having weakened Bayern Munich’s dominance in German football, and he even won a domestic league and cup double last season. I think Roberto di Matteo has a chance too, as he won the Champions League with Chelsea and has taken them back to the top end of the Premier League this term. Pep Guardiola shaped modern football with Barcelona in the last few years, but he was only a coach for six months in 2012, so I don’t think he’ll be in the top three.
What chance do you think the German candidates (Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer, Jurgen Klopp, Jupp Heynckes und Joachim Low) have?
Mesut Ozil and Manuel Neuer are superb players, but they’re not ready to receive an award like this yet. Given the names on the shortlist, a place in the top ten would already be a big achievement. Neuer is lacking the titles to be a serious contender this time. Even as Germany’s No1, he occasionally suffers dips in form. Just recently he conceded four goals with the national team. At least Ozil won the championship in Spain and that’s why I think he’s got a better chance of making the top ten.