Franz Beckenbauer is one of the world’s most recognised and respected football personalities. The 67-year-old rates as a legend of the FIFA World Cup™: he lifted the trophy as a player in 1974, and 16 years later he guided Germany to glory in Italy as team boss.
In 2006, this time as president of the local Organising Committee, he orchestrated a tournament on home soil which has become indelibly etched on the memory of football fans around the world.
FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Beckenbauer at the Sepp Blatter Tournament in Ulrichen, Switzerland, discussing his greatest success as a coach, the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, and his favourites for the trophy next summer.
FIFA.com: In 1990, you won the FIFA World Cup as Germany team manager. What are your memories of the tournament?
Franz Beckenbauer: Naturally, the World Cup is what remains in your memory the longest, and in 1990, we managed to become world champions in Italy, a wonderful country with a huge passion for football. Fortunately, Argentina beat the hosts in the semi-finals, because it would certainly have been more difficult against the home team and favourites in the final. Beating Argentina was an easier task. It was an experience I'll never forget.
The global showdown takes place in Brazil next year. What are your expectations of the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
Just like Italy, Brazil is one of the great footballing nations with a real passion for the sport. I hope we get a proper sense of that during the World Cup.
A Seleção laid down a marker at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 by winning the tournament. What are you expecting from the host nation?
If you can believe the record books, the Confederations Cup winners have never gone on to win the World Cup the following year, so in that respect it's not looking good for Brazil (laughs). But the World Cup is in their own country, they showed what they're capable of at the Confederations Cup, and I think they can do it at the World Cup as well. Given their home advantage, they start as big favourites.
And how far do you think Joachim Low’s Germany can go?
When he took over as national coach in 2006, Jogi Low continued the process he set in motion when he was Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant. He’s followed the same unwavering path, and it's led to success, thanks in part to a host of talented newcomers. There are a few survivors from the 2006 World Cup squad, but the rest are young players who are still developing, who are products of youth academies. These academies aren't just a goldmine for the clubs, but also for the national team. There's a new style to Germany now, young and fresh, and Jogi Low played his part in that. If there's one team capable of neutralising Brazil, I think it's Germany.
Due to the reservoir of talent, do you think it's easier for Joachim Low now than it was for you in 1990?
If you have the full range to choose from, and that's what Jogi Low has at the moment, it definitely makes the job easier. He's also fortunate in that we currently have two outstanding teams, as we saw last season when Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund both made it to the Champions League final. The national team will basically be formed of players from these two clubs. Obviously you have a couple of others such as Ozil and Khedira as well, but players from Munich and Dortmund will form the spine, and that's always an advantage. We saw it back in 1974, when there were six Bayern players and three from Monchengladbach in the World Cup squad. It was a similar situation in 1972.
Some commentators are concerned about the bitter rivalry between Bayern and BVB. Could that hurt the national team?
I was in the same position myself as a player. Obviously, you had your personal rivals such as Berti Vogts, Gunter Netzer, Hacki Wimmer or Jupp Heynckes from Borussia Monchengladbach. And naturally we fought it out on the field of play, but as soon as we were together for the national team, we always sought unity. It's not any different now.
How would you rate the chances of the other South American nations at a World Cup on their home continent?
The South Americans naturally regard themselves as co-hosts. The World Cup isn't just in Brazil, it's in South America, so the teams from the continent are especially motivated. But at the present time, I can't think of any who are genuine contenders for the trophy. Argentina are the same as always and totally dependent on Messi. I don't know enough about the others. As for the Europeans, I'd mention Spain in the same breath as Germany. They'll definitely be a different proposition compared to the Confederations Cup, where they were just too tired after a long season. You can't do it without pre-tournament preparation, and it was obvious the players were exhausted. It'll be different at the World Cup next year. Germany and Spain are the only nations who can run Brazil close for the trophy.
Franck Ribery was named Best Player in Europe last week. Is he in fact the best player in the world at the moment, in your opinion?
Looking over the shortlist of three, Franck Ribery was the most successful. He’s one of the best in any case, and this year he was the best. Without him, Bayern wouldn't have won the treble - one or two trophies perhaps, but not all three, and Franck Ribery made a huge contribution.
As honorary president of Bayern Munich, do you think your club can repeat last season’s treble triumph this term?
For sure, if their rivals let them, but I fear they won't. Borussia Dortmund are stronger now, and they certainly won't allow Bayern to run away with it by such a huge margin again. They'll be aiming to win trophies, and they’re strong enough. I think it's entirely up to Bayern. It'll take a few more weeks or even months before Pep Guardiola is satisfied, because the players haven't yet completely adapted to the style of play the coach wants. That's completely normal, and it always takes time. Whatever, I'm looking forward to an exciting season and I think it'll end the way it did last time, with a two-horse race for the title between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.