As a player Paul Breitner was one of the world's best and he enjoyed huge success with both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Now a brand ambassador for the Bavarians, Breitner also still enjoys close ties to the Spanish giants.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com ahead of the sides’ impending UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg, Breitner discusses the qualities of both clubs, reveals what shocked him about the first leg and explains why he is confident one side in particular will reach the final.
FIFA.com: You played for both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. What are their respective defining features?
The thing that sets Real Madrid apart is that they've been the world's best football team for decades. At Bayern we're on the right path to catching them up and maybe we'll do so in another year's time.
What about the way Real are run? It is often said that Bayern are like one big family and that anyone who once worked there will always be received with open arms. Is that the case in Madrid?
Yes, it's no different at Real Madrid and the family there has been around for the last 50 or 60 years. That's at the heart of the club’s fabric, it's what makes them so special and what has given them such an extraordinary status for such a long time. Winning five European Cups in the 1950s made them the undisputed number one in the world game. Their president Santiago Bernabeu was an expert in handling both the successes and the team and he engrained that level of achievement as standard at the club. There’s a Real Madrid family just like there’s a Bayern one and it's always played an important role at Real.
How does that manifest itself at Real? Do former players stay on at the club long after they hang up their boots, such as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Franz Beckenbauer and you have done at Bayern?
In that sense Bayern are already on an equal footing with Real. At their centenary celebrations in 2002, every player who played at least one game for the club was invited along. Of the approximately 760 former or current players still alive around 550 were present in Madrid. There are also other regular events involving former players, which is why I'm frequently in Madrid and still have a lot of contact with the club.
What do you think is the biggest difference between the clubs?
I'm reluctant to talk about a difference as they started out very differently. Bayern only really came into existence in 1965 when they were promoted to the Bundesliga and by that time Real Madrid were already in a class of their own in world football. In that sense Real have had a historical head start on us, which means you can't really compare the two. We've done exceptionally well for a German club but Real have always done everything a few years before us. Bayern won the European Cup for the first time in 1974, whereas Real did that 20 years earlier. While Real have had 90,000 members since the mid-1960s, Bayern only had around 5,000 when I stopped playing in 1983. We've now got a lot more but Real imposed a freeze on new members once because they wouldn't have been able to provide match tickets for all of them. Real Madrid were the first football club run as a company, so you just can't compare the two. We were only just starting out by the time Real were at the top. The progress we’ve made since then has been similar, just at a different time.
Were you surprised at Real Madrid’s tactics of sitting back and waiting for the chance to counter in the first leg at their own stadium?
I wasn’t surprised that they tried to keep things tight but I was certainly taken aback that Real didn’t even try to take part in the game or to string any moves together. They pulled almost everyone back to barricade their penalty area and then hit long balls to try and exploit their pace up front. That surprised me a lot and wasn’t something I’d ever seen from Real Madrid before.
Do you think Bayern chose the wrong tactics? Should they have perhaps lined up a little deeper?
Definitely not. Bayern were superb for the first 20 minutes, where they played like they had done in autumn last year. But after going behind the team was left in a state of shock. A dreadful positional error at the back led to them conceding a goal they shouldn’t have and it took them a while to get over it. We had Real Madrid pinned back for 20 minutes but then we made a mistake. So the tactics were spot on, we didn’t let them get into the game at all.
Who will reach the final?
I’m one of 15 million self-proclaimed Bayern fans so there’s only one answer I can give to that. We all want Bayern to get there. The [first-leg] result isn’t a complete disaster. Of course we’re behind now and it’s entirely possible that we’ll concede. But if we’re collectively on our game then we’re unbeatable. We’re much better than Real Madrid in that respect. On Wednesday we saw that the team is made up of more than just superstars, so if we play as we normally do, we’ll reach the final.