Still looking as confident and composed as he was in front of goal during his playing days, Toni Polster joined FIFA.com for an exclusive interview and a look back at his glittering career. ‘Twin pack Toni', as he was known to fans thanks to his habit of scoring twice in games, endeared himself to supporters across Austria, Italy, Spain and Germany for years with his remarkable goalscoring feats.
The Vienna-born attacker took his first steps on the footballing ladder at the tender age of nine with hometown club Austria Vienna, where he rose through the ranks to become their star striker, firing them to three successive titles between 1984 and 1986.
A move to Italy with Torino followed, but after just one season the Austrian was on his way to Spanish side Sevilla where he became one of the most feared hitmen in the Primera Division. The Austrian marksman notched an impressive 55 goals in 102 games for the Andalusian outfit, a return bettered only during his early days in his homeland, where he had managed an incredible 119 goals in 147 matches.
Spells at Logrones and Rayo Vallecano preceded a move to German club Cologne, where he scored a further 79 goals in 150 appearances. The lethal forward still had time for two further seasons at Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany before finally winding down his career with Austria Salzburg in 2000.
"In Spain and at Cologne the fans were absolutely fantastic. I don't think I played any better than my team-mates, but the fans always supported me and filled me with confidence. In return, I tried to pay them back by giving my all on the pitch," Polster told FIFA.com.
We have some good players coming through and I'm confident that we will improve by then.
"Looking back, I think I must have done a lot of things right, otherwise I wouldn't still be as popular with the fans as I am today. I was always modest and respectful, and people respond to that," said the former Austria international, who scored 44 times in 95 senior international appearances between 1982 and 2000 and took part in two FIFA World Cups™.
"At Italia ‘90 we weren't up to it, we just didn't have enough quality to get through the group stage. It was a different story at France ‘98, though. We had a good team and we should have qualified for the second round but we drew twice and lost against Italy," recalled the powerful front-runner. "Of course World Cups are really enjoyable, but they were also difficult. You'd already played 50 games by the time the tournament started and we only had a short break in between. On top of that, you don't see your family for a long time, so it's difficult to prepare yourself for the tournament mentally."
Polster also gave his opinion on the current footballing situation in his homeland and expects 2014 to be a landmark year for the Austrian game. "We've seen that the current generation have missed their chance, but the team is in a period of transition so we need to concentrate on the upcoming European and World Cup qualification campaigns," said Polster. "I think we'll qualify for the World Cup (in Brazil) in 2014. We have some good players coming through and I'm confident that we will improve by then."
At the end of his playing career, Polster worked behind the scenes at several professional clubs, including a spell in marketing at German club Borussia Monchengladbach. "I felt like a sponge at Monchengladbach. I learned so much in the three and a half years I spent there and was able to gain a lot of important experience. Now I've completed my coaching qualifications too, so I have the foundations of a good career."
In the beginning, people scoffed at the idea but now people come to my concerts and are amazed.
Nonetheless, since his most recent role as General Manager at Austria Vienna, the man voted Austrian Footballer of the Year in 1986 and 1997 has taken time out to pursue other interests. In 2006, his first musical venture ‘Toni Walk' appeared in stores and two years later '12 Meistertitel' (12 titles) followed. On 19 June 2009, Polster brought out his third effort in the form of ‘Die Dritte' (The Third).
"I take music very seriously and I think those who listen to my music realise that. In the beginning, people scoffed at the idea but now people come to my concerts and are amazed," said the footballer turned recording artist.
And Polster has also been involved in several social projects: "We brought out a range of shirts and with the money raised from that we helped coaches at smaller clubs gain their training licenses. We wanted to help Austrian football at grass-roots level."
When asked whether he is considering a move back into football, Polster left the door open for a return. "In principle I can carry out any role in football thanks to my experience from Monchengladbach and my coaching license," he said as the interview drew to a close. "I see myself either as a general manager or as a coach. I'll have to wait and see, but hopefully one day I'll get the chance to get back into the game."