Wel­come Lothar Matthaus

Meet Four­fourtwo’s new colum­nist. Here, the for­mer Bay­ern and Ger­many star re­veals his love of the English game, idol­is­ing Kevin Kee­gan and los­ing to ‘that team in green and yel­low’


The first English player I re­mem­ber re­ally look­ing up to was Kevin Kee­gan. I grew up as a fan of Borussia Monchenglad­bach and he was a star of the Liver­pool team that had beaten them in the 1977 Euro­pean Cup Fi­nal. I wasn’t too happy, but then he signed for Ham­burg and be­came a big star in Ger­many. Soon I be­came a player at Monchenglad­bach and, for a young boy, it was a great mo­ment to play against a su­per­star like him.

Later on I’d play in the 1990 World Cup semi-fi­nal against Chris Wad­dle – a very good player – and, of course, Paul Gas­coigne. He was so good for foot­ball and I am al­ways happy to see him when we bump into each other. Af­ter our ca­reers fin­ished we had two or three char­ity games: Paul play­ing for Eng­land, me play­ing for Ger­many. For sure with him, you al­ways have fun in the evening af­ter­wards and you have to have a drink! On the field I think I was a bet­ter player, but at the party af­ter the game he was bet­ter than every­body! It’s a pity he’s had some prob­lems in re­cent years and I wish him only the best.

Dur­ing my ca­reer, I came to Eng­land to play against As­ton Villa with In­ter Milan, and with Bay­ern Mu­nich against Not­ting­ham For­est, Ever­ton and the team in the green and yel­low shirts, Nor­wich – we lost to them… The at­mos­phere at the sta­di­ums in Eng­land was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to Ger­many – more noise, and the fans were closer to the pitch, be­cause at that time we had run­ning tracks around many of the pitches in Ger­many. At Bay­ern we’d play games at the Olympias­ta­dion but some­times we played in front of 15,000 peo­ple – it only sold out if it was Real Madrid. It was dif­fer­ent when you played in Eng­land. The sta­di­ums were full and I al­ways en­joyed it.

There’s a lot of in­ter­est in English foot­ball in Ger­many to­day, too, and even more so be­cause of Jur­gen Klopp – Sky Ger­many had a spe­cial con­tract with Liver­pool last sea­son, tele­vis­ing their matches. I know Jur­gen – he’s an emo­tional man and, above all, he has a great heart. Play­ers have to be 100 per cent fit to play in his sys­tem, be­cause the gegen­press is de­signed to give op­po­nents no time to re­cover. But he has the char­ac­ter to push the team at cru­cial mo­ments, like he did at Borussia Dortmund. Every­body can be a coach, but you have to un­der­stand the men­tal­ity of play­ers. Jur­gen does.

So too does Jose Mour­inho, a man­ager I’ve al­ways liked a lot – I would have en­joyed play­ing un­der him. I man­aged Par­ti­zan Bel­grade against Porto in 2003 – my first Cham­pi­ons League game, and one of his first Cham­pi­ons League games, too. We’d beaten New­cas­tle and Alan Shearer in qual­i­fy­ing, and Real Madrid were the big team in the group. Porto were not such a big name, but they won the tro­phy that sea­son and I’ve re­spected Mour­inho ever since. Some­times he pro­vokes peo­ple, but every­thing is for a rea­son – he only wants the best for the club. I’ve heard from some play­ers who played un­der him and they all speak well of him, whether they were in the team or not. That says a lot – many play­ers hate their man­ager when they’re not play­ing, but not those I’ve spo­ken to about Mour­inho. Pep Guardi­ola’s style is dif­fer­ent, but he al­ways makes a team bet­ter – he was very good at Barcelona and good at Bay­ern Mu­nich, too. He could not just go into Manch­ester City and com­pletely change re­sults, he needed time to bring in new play­ers, which he has done again this sum­mer. His dream is surely to win the Premier League and even the Cham­pi­ons League there – and when you see the money, the play­ers and the name of the coach, you can’t ac­cept fifth and the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals. But Pep is not alone, as six teams be­lieve they can win the league. De­spite that, the Premier League hasn’t had quite as much suc­cess in the Cham­pi­ons League as the Bun­desliga re­cently, and per­haps not hav­ing a win­ter break is a rea­son – it is crazy, but I like the tra­di­tion too. There is a four-week break in Ger­many, four less games and no League Cup. With time to recharge, maybe it makes a big dif­fer­ence at the end of the sea­son? But the one thing we do miss in Ger­many is that com­pe­ti­tion for first place – there’s only one club, maybe two, who can win the Bun­desliga. In the Premier League it’s dif­fer­ent: that’s why peo­ple in Ger­many also follow English foot­ball.


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