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German football legend Franz Beckenbauer dies at the age of 78

Franz Beckenbauer
Franz Beckenbauer

German football legend Franz Beckenbauer has died at the age of 78.

The World Cup winner died on Sunday, January 7, his family have confirmed.

Beckenbauer’s health has gradually declined ever since his son Stephan died in 2015.

Since then the iconic former player and manager battled Parkinson’s disease and dementia, and he also underwent heart operations.

‘It is with deep sadness that we announce that husband and father, Franz Beckenbauer, passed away peacefully in his sleep yesterday, Sunday, surrounded by his family,’ a statement read.

‘We ask that you be able to mourn in silence and refrain from asking any questions.’

Beckenbauer, nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser, is regarded as one of football’s greatest-ever players.

He was part of the West Germany side that lost to England in the 1966 World Cup final.

Beckenbauer is in an exclusive club as he is one of only three men, including France manager Didier Deschamps and Brazilian icon Mario Zagallo, who passed away last week, to have won a World Cup as a player and manager.

Born in Giesling, a working-class district of Munich, in September 1945, Beckenbauer grew up as a fan of 1860 Munich but joined the youth setup at the then unfashionable Bayern instead.

He was originally a centre-forward and made his debut for the club in 1964, when they were in West Germany’s second tier, as a left winger. He eventually moved into centre midfield and having helped Bayern achieve promotion to the Bundesliga, was made captain ahead of the 1968-69 season, leading them to the top-flight title at the first time of asking.

He became an inspirational and consistently excellent figure for Bayern, leading them to a hat-trick of domestic titles between 1972-74, as well as those three European titles, between 1974-76. At the age of 20, he also made his debut for West Germany in a World Cup qualifier away to Sweden. The youngster shone in a 2-1 victory that sealed his country’s place at the 1966 finals in England.

West Germany later went on to lose to the hosts at Wembley. In 1972, Beckenbauer captained his nation at European Championship before clinching the world title, on home soil, two years later.

Having won further honours, including the Ballon d’Or in 1972 and 1976, Beckenbauer retired from playing in 1984 following a spell with the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League. That same year, he was appointed West Germany manager despite having no previous coaching experience.

Beckenbauer led his country to the final of the 1986 World Cup and then to the trophy itself at Italia 90, joining Brazil’s Mario Zagallo in achieving world success on the touchline as well as on the pitch. France’s Didier Deschamps would go on to achieve the same feat in 2018.

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