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.
“THERE’S A LOT OF INTEREST In ENGLISH FOOTBALL In GERMANY TODAY BECAUSE OF JURGEN KLOPP... HE’S An EMOTIONAL MAN AND, ABOVE ALL, HE HAS A GREAT HEART”