Beckenbauer is without doubt one of the greatest players and coaches of all time. He redefined the role of libero, lifted the FIFA World Cup™ as captain in 1974, before repeating the feat as a manager in 1990.
The son of a general manager of a postal depot, he began his career at the age of nine in the youth team of SC Munchen 06, before joining Bayern Munich in 1958. He made his debut for Bayern on the left wing, against FC St. Pauli on 6 June 1964. In only his first season in the regional league, he helped the club achieve promotion to the Bundesliga.
Franz celebrated his first international cap on 26 September 1965, aged 20, and went on to play in three FIFA World Cups. The young Beckenbauer made his first finals appearance in 1966, scoring two goals in a 5-0 victory over Switzerland in his first game. Although West Germany lost in that legendary Final to hosts England at Wembley, more than 30 years later, Beckenbauer can reflect positively on events: "Being a runner-up in the FIFA World Cup isn't too bad for a young player", Beckenbauer told FIFA.com.
His second tournament in Mexico in 1970 was also memorable as he played in the semi-final against Italy with a dislocated shoulder, carrying his injured arm in a sling. However, his dedication went unrewarded with the Azzurri running out 4-3 winners, leaving the Germans to settle for third place.
Nevertheless, Beckenbauer still has fond memories of Mexico. "1970 was a magnificent tournament. The fans were fanatical and stadium security wasn't quite so intense in those days. You could still do pretty much what you wanted to. There was just one armed policeman who sat outside the entrance and watched the whole ground. Obviously, that would be unthinkable today. Back then, it was simply more relaxed. The games in Mexico were colourful. The country laughed and football danced," he recalled.
Glory on home soil
Then in 1974 came Beckenbauer's finest hour. By now, he was playing in the position he revolutionised - as a libero behind the defence. He organised the team from the back, but also advanced when his side were on the attack. It was in his nature to go forward; he simply could not stop himself.
The 1974 FIFA World Cup in Germany was something extra-special for Beckenbauer and his team. From the first whistle, the home fans demanded nothing less than victory. The high expectations were something the captain was all too aware of: "When you are hosts, there is obviously twice the pressure, because everybody expects you to win".
Collectively, Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Paul Breitner, Wolfgang Overath, Gerd Muller and the rest of the team withstood the pressure to make West Germany champions for the second time. After their 2-1 victory over the Netherlands, Beckenbauer became the first captain to lift the brand new FIFA World Cup trophy after Brazil had retained the Jules Rimet trophy in 1970.
In 1977, Beckenbauer left Bayern Munich to join the New York Cosmos. By the time he left Munich he had won every major honour with "his" Bayern: the Intercontinental Cup, a hat-trick of UEFA European Cups, four German Championships and four German Cups. He hoped to find a new challenge in the USA's professional league, as well as earn a good living. From a sporting point of view, however, the switch stateside did not further his development: "Football-wise it was a non-starter" he said.
No end to the success
The move across the Atlantic also brought an end to his international career. Since he was plying his trade abroad, he was no longer considered for selection by West Germany. In total, he made 103 appearances for his country, becoming the first ever German player to break through the 100-cap barrier.
In 1982, he made his comeback in the Bundesliga at 35, playing for one season with Hamburg. He retired from playing in 1983 after another spell with the New York Cosmos.
In July 1984, after the failure of Jupp Derwall at that year's UEFA European Championship, Beckenbauer was installed as West Germany's national team head coach. His first major success from the dugout was at Mexico 1986, where he led his team to the Final. Although Argentina won the trophy, Beckenbauer had come of age as a coach.
At Italy 1990, West Germany became undefeated world champions, and when Andreas Brehme converted the only goal from the penalty spot in the Final against Argentina, Beckenbauer secured his place in the record books as the first man to win the FIFA World Cup as captain and as coach. Winning the trophy as coach remains the pinnacle of Franz Beckenbauer's football career: "I would say 1990 in Italy was the most important to me, it doesn't come any better than managing a side to victory," he has been quoted as saying.
Beckenbauer was the president of Bayern Munich until 1998, when he was made the vice-president of the German Football Association. And after helping to return the sport's showpiece event to his homeland, he successfully oversaw the 2006 FIFA World Cup as the chairman of its Organising Committee.